Mmegi Online :: Bright convinced Zebras will qualify despite early slump
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Monday 17 December 2018, 16:18 pm.
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Bright convinced Zebras will qualify despite early slump

In 2012, the Zebras flew into seventh heaven and danced merrily with Africa’s football elite after securing the first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals berth.
By Mqondisi Dube Fri 14 Sep 2018, 13:05 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Bright convinced Zebras will qualify despite early slump








That remains the country’s finest football moment, in an otherwise topsy-turvy journey. Six years later, David Bright and the Zebras have a perfect opportunity to return to the biennial soccer jamboree, but appear to be fluffing their lines.

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The Zebras’ campaign has failed to move into second gear since a late Mauritania goal stunned the hosts, 1-0 at the Francistown Sports Complex in June last year. Days later, then Zebras coach, Peter Butler threw in the towel, and Bright was installed to steer the ship forward. After falling to underrated Mauritania, a nation that has never qualified for the AFCON finals, it appeared all gloom and doom for the Zebras. Initially, only the group winners were guaranteed qualification, plus three best placed runners up. But on July 20, 2017, a month after the Mauritania defeat, CAF threw the Zebras a lifeline. 

A decision was made to increase the number of participating teams, from 16 to 24, meaning the group winners and 11 runners-up, will join Cameroon at the finals. This means the Zebras need to finish second in Group I to clinch qualification.

In qualifying six years ago, the Zebras used the harder route, going past traditional North African giants, Tunisia, West Africans, Togo and Chad. Stanley Tshosane’s boys were imperious, tasting only one inconsequential defeat to Togo in the final round match, after impressive back-to-back victories over former champions, Tunisia. Despite the tough group, the Zebras made it to the finals for the first time in their history.

However, this time around, a group that consists of Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Angola, appeared winnable, but the Zebras now have to do it the hard way, if they are to progress. They have pressed the self-destruct button, two games into

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the qualifiers, without a goal and remain point less.

It will only get tough as they fly out to Ouagadougou to face the Stallions of Burkina Faso on October 13. Failure to grind a result will all but end the Zebras’ interest in the 2019 edition, with a tough trip to surprise leaders, Mauritania still on the horizon.

Burkina Faso will visit on October 16, before Bright takes the team to unpredictable Mauritania in November, in what should be a hostile atmosphere in Central Africa.

The Zebras close their campaign with a southern African derby against Angola next March, but by the time the Palancas Negras touch down at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, the die will have been cast.

But Bright remains optimistic that they Zebras can pull the rabbit out of the hat and proceed to Cameroon for the finals.

“Against Angola, the boys played well. The pitch was slippery, particularly in front of the goal mouth. We did our best considering that we did not have enough time to prepare. You could see the boys played well in the second half. Some of the mistakes committed during the match could have been corrected during a friendly encounter,” Bright said, after taking the boys to Angola without any international friendly match practice.

“But I am convinced that we can qualify. There are still four games to play. I see at least four points from the Burkina Faso games. Unfortunately, we lost a home game (against Mauritania) that we were not supposed to lose. That could have changed the dynamics, as everyone would be on three points as we speak,” Bright said.

He said it is critical that the team prepares sufficiently ahead of a busy October month, where they play Burkina Faso back-to-back.

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