Botswana hope to extend fairy tale run
Botswana will make their debut at the 2012 Nations Cup, but any team who take The Zebras lightly will be doing so at their own peril.
They posted a very impressive run to qualify for the finals with a round of matches to spare from a five-team group that included Tunisia, Togo, Malawi and Chad.
It was a feat that will earn them the CAF Team of 2011 Award ahead of star-studded Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Niger.
"I am very happy. For the first time qualifying for the final tournament and at the same time being the first team to qualify and win this award," said a proud coach Stanley Tshosane.
"It is a very great achievement, which will encourage us to work harder because now people are expecting more than this from us now.
"This was a team effort as we stuck together and have been rewarded as a team."
Tshosane has transformed the team within three years but will have to wait till after the Nations Cup for a new contract.
The Zebra's will open their account in Group D against Ghana on January 24 in Franceville, Gabon, where they will be based.
They will be one of the most prepared teams for this tournament as they have staged lengthy training camps in South Africa, Qatar and Cameroon.
They also played several warm-up games including pulling a goalless draw in Nigeria and also drawing 1-1 with Namibia. They were also held to a 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe at home.
First choice goalkeeper Modiri Marumo of Bay United in South Africa missed the early part of the build-up, but he has been picked in the final party.
However, coach Tshosane has admitted fitness concerns over some of his foreign-based stars.
Midfielder Dirang Moloi has been inactive as he wishes to quit former South African club Vasco da Gama to Notwane in Botswana.
Star striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana has also seen very little action after he was frozen out at his South African club Santos over a contract dispute.
Ramatlhakwana scored five goals in the qualifying tournament and was nominated for a CAF Award for the past year.
"'JJ' has recovered really," Tshosane commented on his striker's match fitness. "Now I can tell you that I am sure he is definitely 85-90 percent ready.
"I gave him a training programme he has been working on after I realised that he has lost some of his form even when we played Nigeria (in November)."
Veteran attacking midfielder Diphetogo Selolwane of SuperSport United is team skipper and he will provide the needed experience at the Nations Cup for the debutants.
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