FRANCISTOWN: Buoyed by two consecutive wins, the Zebras will feel they have enough in their tank to shock fancied Les Aigles of Mali when the two meet in the second round of the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier at the Francistown Sports Complex on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 6pm. The Zebras are keen to travel to West Africa for the second leg with a healthy lead although Mali has proved to be a hard nut to crack.
Mali has convincingly won three matches against the Zebras including a 4-1 drubbing in their last visit to Lobatse in 2012.
However, the Zebras are transformed under Butler and have found the second city a happy hunting ground where they have enjoyed the resounding backing of the 12th man.
The Zebras will look to bring down another African giant after they dimmed Burkina Faso’s light two months back against the odds.
Mali is ranked 65th in the FIFA World rankings while Botswana is 42 places below. In the CAF rankings, Les Aigles are ranked 13 and the Zebras 29.
Zebras have undoubtedly improved in their attacking style of play and have performed well in games. In the last five official games, both teams have not lost. The Zebras have won three and drew two, scoring seven goals and conceding two, whereas Mali have won two and drew three, scoring eight goals and conceding five.
In the run, the Les Aigles have conceded in all the games and drew all their away games. The Zebras in the past three home games have won two, drew one and found the net in all three encounters.
However, Mali come into this encounter with a hat trick of wins against the Zebras. Their first ever meeting came in a group D game at the 2012 AFCON played in Equatorial Guinea when the Les Aigles came from behind to beat the Zebras 2-1 with a late Seydou Keita goal. In the 2013 Africa Nations Cup qualifier, Mali beat Botswana 7-1 on aggregate after a 3-0 win in Bamako and a 4-1 thumping at the Lobatse Sports Complex.
But Zebras mentor, Peter Butler is not interested in the past. “I don’t really worry about the past. They have a different outlook, completely different squad, a different coach in Alain (Geresse). He has coached Mali before. He has also coached Senegal. “He will be briefed and he is well versed of what we got to work with, what kind of system and what kind of style we play. But we move forward, we are positive, we are confident and we will be prepared properly. We will put up an attacking team and do the right thing,” Butler said.
Players to watch
Zebras: Mogakolodi Ngele, Kabelo Seakanyeng, Lebogang Ditsile, Hendrick Moyo
Mali: Modibo Maiga, Cheick Diabate, Samba Sow, Bakary Sako