FRANCISTOWN: Zebras captain, Thatayaone Ditlhokwe has said coach Mogomotsi ‘Teenage’ Mpote should not be blamed for the team's poor performance in the 2025 AFCON qualifiers.
Instead, Ditlhokwe has pleaded with supporters to be patient. He was speaking after the Zebras registered their third loss in four games after going down 3-2 to Equatorial Guinea yesterday (Tuesday).
It was the second loss to the same opponent in a space of less than a week. The Zebras lost the first-round qualifying clash 2-0 in Malabo on Friday. “We are still learning.
Our team is made up of young players. The average age in the squad is 26 years. We need to play more games to gain experience. It will be unfair to demand more from the players and the coach. The team that qualified for the 2012 AFCON took years to reach its peak. The players were together for a very long. We have to go through that process to start winning,” Ditlhokwe told reporters after the match. The Supersport left back also blamed match officials for the Zebras' loss yesterday.
“I thought that the match could have ended 2-2 or 3-3 but the referee made a few dubious decisions against us.” The Kaizer Chiefs-bound defender also allayed fears that he could have suffered a severe injury during the match. Ditlhokwe spent a notable number of minutes off the pitch being treated for what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder.
“I feel fine. It was just a minor knock.” The Zebras no longer have the prospects of qualifying for the 2025 AFCON tournament but Mpote believes that there is still much to play for.
The Zebras are left with two games in the qualifiers, an away clash with Tunisia and a home tie against Lybia. “We will approach the last two matches with a higher level of seriousness and commitment. The boys have to get used to the intensity of playing international matches if we want to go far as a nation,” he said.
Zebras are at the bottom of group J with one point. They earned the point in their home match against Tunisia who top the group with 10 points, a point ahead of second-placed Equatorial Guinea. Libya are third with three points. All the teams are left with two games. The top two teams qualify for the 2023 AFCON finals to be held in Ivory Coast.