Following the pounding of Eritrea on Tuesday at the new Francistown sports complex the Zebras will now take on a tougher opponent – Mali – in the second round of the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers. The Zebras have shown great character to put down Eritrea with a huge 5-1 aggregate score.
Despite the good performance the team put up, questions are being raised on whether they are ready for Mali or not. Some argue that Eritrea were too weak to celebrate victory against. Before the Eritrea meet, the Zebras played Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Peter Butler’s men showed their character to beat the ‘Stallions’ 1-0. However they lost to Ethiopia before they went rampant on Eritrea. Soccer analysts believe that the team still needs to improve to be ready for tougher competition like Mali.
Soccer analyst Fabian Zulu dismissed thoughts that the recent good performance by the local lads means they are ready for Mali. Zulu said the team is not yet ready but it is getting there. “We can take on Mali yes but it is another thing to beat them. It is going to be very difficult for Zebus to beat Mali. If they do, it will be something that is not expected,” he said. Jimmy George acknowledged the good character that the team has been showing lately but questioned if they will withstand a tougher competition.
George said there is a very huge gap between Eritrea and Mali. The latter is ranked way above the Zebras while the other one is way below. As a result, according to Zulu, it remains to be seen if the players will be able to beat Mali. “The question is who you are playing - Zebras had to perform well because they were playing a lower team,” said Zulu.
On the other hand, George said going forward the Zebras need some experience in the park to be stable. According to him the coach need the likes of Ramatlhakwana and Semboa to reinforce with experience. “The way we were playing has shown that we need some experience. Look at how we were giving the Eritrean players space to come at us. If we do this when we play Mali it is going to destroy us,” he explained.
However, George said the team should be ready for Mali since they know each other and even know what the coach wants at the moment. Zulu differed a little with him, saying the coach is still trying to build a strong squad and he is in the right direction. Zulu believes that the team is slowly getting to where it is needed.
The team’s inadequate conversion of chance has also caused a concern for soccer lovers; it is even Butler’s worry as well. The coach, however, said he can do very little about this issue, saying club coaches should come together to address the matter. For these words the coach came under fire from some who feel he should be addressing the poor finishing at this team. “It is his responsibility to make sure that players convert the chances they create during the game. He cannot dissociate himself from the problem. It is his systems and strategies they are following so he has to make sure they are productive,” said George.
However, some do not blame the coach, saying this should be a collective effort by all coaches. They argue that the players spend a lot of time with their club coaches as opposed to national team coach. “I do not blame Butler because he spends very little time with the players and cannot teach them to finish in such a short time he spends with them,” said Zulu.
He further said that during the little time he has with the players what he worries more is combining the players well not teaching them how to finish. It is believed that the players who are called to the national team should be ready for national duty. This leaves the core of the work to the club coaches as well as different developmental structures.