Guinea 6-1 Botswana
In the first match of the day we saw the two sides in the tournament with the best kits go head-to-head – Botswana and Guinea, there is no doubt about that. Botswana’s is a light blue of serenity, a type of kit where you can imagine their whole squad going for a swim in the ocean and your eyes not being able to differentiate between them and the humble waves of the sea. Guinea’s kit can be described as colourful, representative of Africa as a whole in its colour; ever-blushing and randomly complemented with bright yellow shorts. It’s easy to like a team because of their kit and I like Guinea. The west Africans made light work of the southern Africans, smashing them 6-1.
The Zebra approach
The Zebras were frustratingly difficult to beat during qualification because of their compactness as a defensive unit – only losing 1 game in 8, a 1-0 away defeat to Togo, and by then they had sealed qualification to the AFCON. Tactically, the majority of the players were behind the ball and the only outlet a lot of the time was commentators’ – and bloggers’ – nightmare Jerome Ramatlhakwane who caught opponents off-guard on the break. This was evident in their opening game against Ghana as the Black Stars found it difficult to break them down, Ramatlhakwane racing away forcing John Mensah to commit as the last man and earn a red card. Ghana’s solitary goal coming from a set-piece and it could be argued that Botswana deserved more from the game.
The Bots malfunction
Against Guinea, the Zebras attempted to play a more expansive game, presumably because they knew a win was vital here because Guinea, out of the other sides in the group, are probably the weakest side defensively. They were punished severely for their approach as Guinea cut them open at will and – had their finishing been better – we could have been looking at a scoreline in double figures. Still, Guinea became only the third team to score 6 goals at the Cup of Nations (the others were Egypt 6-3 Nigeria in 1963 and Ivory Coast 6-1 Ethiopia in 1970). It’s worth noting that the sending off before half-time probably made things worse for Botswana, although even with 11 team on the pitch there were several holes and lapses in defence. They were lucky not to have conceded more.