The Obed Itani Chilume Stadium (Francistown Sports Complex) will host the eagerly anticipated Mascom Top 8 final between Orapa United and Township Rollers on Saturday (3.30pm), two trophy hunting teams that have made the competition their own in the last few years in terms of cup final appearances.
Rollers lead the way with an unprecedented six appearances in the final while Orapa are the second rated team in that regard with four appearances in the grand finale. Orapa United and Rollers have faced each other four times in the Mascom Top 8 over the years, the Ostriches boast a better head to head record as they have beaten Rollers three times compared to Popa’s solitary victory.
The cup final will have a lot at stake as Rollers will be aiming to become the outright leader in terms of Mascom Top 8 trophies (they are currently tied with Gaborone United and Jwaneng Galaxy on two apiece) while Orapa will be aiming to join the aforementioned teams as the joint most successful team in the competition’s history.
Road to the final
Orapa United started season 9 of the Mascom Top 8 competition with a tie against Security Systems, they eliminated the Alarm Boys 3-1 on aggregate. They won the first leg 1-0 before closing out the tie with a 2-1 victory in the second leg at the Molepolole Sports Complex. In the semifinals, the Ostriches faced defending champions Jwaneng Galaxy, the first leg ended in a one-all draw before Orapa put the tie to bed in dramatic fashion with a 92nd minute courtesy of Lawrence Nduga. Popa started their ninth season in the competition with a comprehensive 6-0 aggregate win over Molepolole City Stars. They easily demolished Stars 4-0 in the first leg before winning 2-0 in what many would have considered a ‘dead rubber’ second leg match.
The semifinal stage saw Rollers face BDF XI, Popa recorded a comfortable 3-1 in the first leg. BDF XI then won the return leg by a goal to nil but that was not enough as they could not score enough goals on the day to tip the scale in their favour.
Who has the upper hand?
Football analyst Jimmy George believes that the cup final will be a game of nerves with less tactical influence. George believes that Orapa’s recent cup final record against Rollers will be a motivating factor in terms of determining the favourite for the game, he is of the view that Rollers could enter the game as underdogs for the first time in years. “This past weekend’s league results should not be taken lightly, Rollers are a wounded team at the moment, they will be nervous because Orapa have hurt them before. It will be a game of nerves, Rollers might play with caution and that could work to Orapa’s advantage. The fear factor that Rollers had is not the same, Mogomotsi Mpote also has a decent record against his old club and it appears he relishes the Rollers test. Orapa cannot afford to be overconfident though because the Rollers players still have the character and experience to win any game, the likes of Tumisang Orebonye can hurt defences because he is a lethal striker. They are capable of winning, do not get me wrong, the only problem is that they are entering a game without their usual fear factor and a few injury scares to key players,” George stated.
Fellow scribe Mqondisi Dube believes that Orapa are the favourites. “The cup at the moment appears written Orapa United; which could be the undoing for Mpote’s side. Complacency is bound to creep in as Rollers has hit turbulence in recent matches and are finding it difficult to adjust under a new coach. Orapa is settled now under Mpote and for me, Nduga is the player to watch. But both sides are fresh from damaging defeats; Orapa at the hands of Notwane and Rollers, the derby loss. It would be interesting to see how both pick themselves up. It’s a game that is likely to be won on the bench, although you cannot rule out the starting players carrying the day on such an important occasion,” said Dube.