The Zebras of Botswana need to overturn a 3-0 deficit against Mali at home this weekend if they want to reach their second Africa Cup of Nations finals next year in South Africa.
Botswana coach Stanley Tshosane is hoping it will be third time luck for his charges who have already lost twice to their opponents this year. Zebras went down 2-1 in February during the 2012 Gabon-Equatorial Guinea AFCON finals before Mali won 3-0 in the first leg of the 2013 AFCON qualifier in Bamako. This scenario leaves the Zebras in need of a 4-0 win or better result to make the final 16 teams for South Africa.
"It will be unfair for us to lose to the same team three times in a row " said Tshosane but he was quick to admit the Zebras have a mountain to climb to achieve their target. Zebras team captain Mompati Thuma was in buoyant mood and chose to look at the positive side, saying "Mali has a good team that's given and if they managed to score three goals in their backyard we can also do the same."
Thuma went on to say , " I think the team has done a lot in terms of preparing for this match and we should not look at this game in isolation but the qualifier as a whole. The coach has enough time to change his tactics and in terms of fitness players are in top condition and ready for Mali. I believe we can overturn the deficit from Bamako" said Thuma.
Meanwhile Zebras will be relieved to hear that Mali captain Seydou Keita who scored in his side's 2-1 win over Zebras will miss the game this weekend through injury. The former Barcelona midfielder, who joined Chinese outfit Dalian Aerbin over the summer, will be joined on the sidelines by Randers defender Adama Tamboura as well as Guingamp striker Moustapha Yatabare. Mali coach Patrice Carteron has subsequently summoned defender Ousmane Berthe, Alou Bagayoko and Idrissa Nama Laico Traore as reinforcements for the second leg in Gaborone. The aggregate winner of the two leg tie will secure a berth in the final tournament to be held in South Africa over January and February next year. Mali won the first leg 3-0 on home soil in Bamako on September 8.