Familiar foes engage in friendly fire

Zenatha Coleman in action for Namibia against Botswana. File photo

The Brave Gladiators are looking to upstage Botswana’s Mares when they face-off in an international friendly match in Gaborone today.

The visitors have beaten Botswana, quarter-finalists at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, just once in the last five attempts, with the hosts enjoying two wins and two matches ending even.

Games between the neighbours have tended to be low scoring affairs, with neither side managing more than two goals in their matches.

However, today’s encounter could be different as both camps are at full-strength and looking to sharpen for upcoming assignments.

Namibia will fancy their chances after the Mares made hard work of their 2-1 win over lowly Lesotho in another home friendly on Sunday.

“Botswana has shown a lot of growth and its by no fluke that they have qualified for two consecutive Afcons [Women’s Africa Cup of Nations]. We expect a tough encounter,” Jacobs said at yesterday’s pre-match presser.

“They are a really good outfit, but we’re also coming here to try and prepare for the Cosafa [Council of Southern Africa Football Associations] and the next qualifiers that are around the corner. So, we want to be among the best, play the best and try to beat the best. We’re relishing opportunity.”

Gladiators skipper Zenatha Coleman predicts an entertaining encounter.

“The mood in the camp is good. We’re looking forward to the friendly. It’s going to be special because we are neighbours and have played each other many times. It’s going to be enjoyable,” she said.

Botswana coach Alex Basimanebotlhe Malete is likely to rotate his personnel as he looks to blood new faces to supplement his regulars.

“The reason we are playing international friendly games is to give other players a chance to try other things, trying to improve our game,” Malete said.

“We’re playing a team that is not a closed book to us. They also know us very well, we’ve played against each other a number of times.

“My first international game was in 2019 against Namibia. More than half the players who played in that game are still here today with the team. About 70% of the team that played Cosafa last year is here today.

“We’re looking forward to the game and it’s going to be competitive,” he said.

On paper, Botswana should have little trouble overcoming Namibia, however, Mares captain Refilwe Tholakele is not taking the Gladiators lightly.

“The aim is just to maintain the standard or try to improve from the last encounter. We’re not taking anything away from them, they are a very good team and we won’t undermine them. The aim is to keep improving and that’s what we will work towards in the match,” she said.

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