‘Group of death’ awaits Zebras

A place in the toughest group of the 2015 AFCON Qualifiers could be on the horizon for the Botswana senior national football team. They stand a chance to advance to Group G which is made up of African heavyweights such as Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal. Botswana would have to progress through two preliminary rounds before tackling the continental giants.

Peter Butler’s charges have been drawn against Burundi in the second round of the preliminary stage.  The sides will lock horns in Burundi on May 17 before renewing their stand off on May 31 in Botswana. If the Zebras eliminate Burundi they will advance to round three where they will face either Central African Republic (CAR) or Guinea Bissau.

Botswana and Burundi have met twice before in a competitive setting. On March 27, 2007 Burundi defeated Botswana 1-0 in the AFCON 2008 Qualifiers in a fixture played in Rwanda while Zebras won 1-0 in the corresponding fixture three months later.

Burundi is ranked 124th in the world, their position gives the impression that they are not the type of team to give Peter Butler sleepless nights but they have two prominent players who could trouble the Zebras.

Bidvest Wits midfielder Faty Papy is one such player, the 23- year- old midfielder is one of the most technically gifted players in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). Defender Valery Nahayo, a former Kaizer Chiefs player, is an experienced member of the Burundi national side and the current captain of the national side. Nahayo currently plays for Belgian side KAA Gent.

Former Zebras midfielder Dipsy Selolwane has given Gazette Sport an insight into the abilities of both players. Selolwane and Nahayo were teammates at Jomo Cosmos and he has also faced Papy on numerous occasions.
Papy is a player renowned for his interceptions and ability to numb the opposition’s passing game. The industrious midfielder is a specialist in terms of making late runs into the opposition’s penalty area whenever his team is attacking. He has a decent scoring record, he is not prolific but his countless forays into the opposition half could be a threat.

“He is quick, clever and works hard. His team is third on the PSL log and he is having a good season,” Dispy described Papy.
“Nahayo on the other and  is a good professional. He is strong in aerial duels, aggressive and he has good leadership skills. The best compliment I can give him is that he is a winner. We are still in regular contact and he told me that they will make things hard for Botswana. He is very confident ahead of the game,” said Selolwane.

“Overall the Burundi team has grown in recent years; their players are now being exported to overseas leagues and they should not be underestimated. The important thing is to make sure we eliminate them before we worry about the tough fixtures ahead. We have a new coach and we are going through a transitional phase but we have to advance,” concluded the Zebras legend.
Group G and the Tunisian omen

If Botswana qualifies for the group stages they will come up against familiar foes Tunisia. A side they have beaten twice, drawn once and lost twice against. The draw could be a good omen for Botswana because Tunisia featured in a group where the Zebras qualified for AFCON 2012.

Egypt and the Zebras have met twice in an official setting. In 2006, Zebras held the 7 time African champions to a 0-0 draw which was characterized by Ernest Amos’ man marking of Egyptian striker Mido and Colwyn Rowe’s post match celebrations.

The Pharaohs won the corresponding fixture in Egypt. The last time the sides met was in an international friendly last year where  the sides drew 1-1; Zebras striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana was amongst the scorers. Zebras have not yet faced Senegal in a competitive match.