Gaborone, Sept 8 : Botswana's qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup finals remains in the balance after the southern African country was held to a goalless draw by Malawi in the first leg of their preliminary round in Francistown, Botswana's second city on Saturday.
Adel Amrouche, the newly appointed head coach for Botswana's senior national soccer team, included seven foreign-based players in Mpho Kgaswane, Kabelo Seakanyeng, Ezekiel Morake, Mosha Gaolaolwe, Mogakolodi Ngele, Lesenya Ramoraka and Thero Setsile with the intention of grabbing a win at home.
The Zebras, as Botswana is affectionately known in football circles, piled pressure on the visitors with good exchanges in front of goals and nearly went a goal ahead halfway through the first half but Malawi goalkeeper Brighton Munthali kept them in the game with crucial saves.
Malawians, who have been applying a cautious game from the onset, started to get into the game in the last quarter of the first stanza and were threatening on wing attacks marshaled by their South African based Gabaldinho Mhango.
However, the Flames of Malawi could not create clear chances to beat Kabelo Dambe in Botswana goals.
After the breather, both sides continued with their stuttering game. The game swung from one end to the other but none of the two sets of players could hit the back of the net until the final whistle. Amrouche remained optimistic that his boys will play a totally different ballgame in Malawi and proceed to the next round, although he admitted that it is not going to be an easy task.
"We tried our best but it was not enough. The positive thing is that the boys are slowly but surely adopting to my philosophy," said Amrouche, adding that his players have got a potential of snatching a win in Malawi. The return leg takes place next Tuesday in Blantyre, Malawi. If The Zebras eliminate Malawi they will enter the group stage of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. Botswana has never tasted defeat against Malawi in their last six encounters ranging from World Cup Qualifiers, AFCON Qualifiers and international friendlies to COSAFA Cup tournaments since 2003. (XINHUA)