Zimbabwe’s aspirations of making it to the 2022 Women Africa Cup of Nations(Awcon) and the 2023 Women’s World Cup suffered a major blow after a dispiriting 3-1 home defeat in the first leg of the final round of qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium on Friday.
Botswana take a healthy lead back home thanks to a second half hattrick by diminutive striker Lesego Radiankanyo.
ZIMBABWE 1-3 BOTSWANA
— Zimbabwe Football Association (@online_zifa) February 18, 2022
Radiankanyo gave Botswana the lead against the run of play two minutes after the break making the most of a mix up between goalkeeper Lindiwe Magwede and Danai Bhobho to ghost in and poke the ball into an empty net.
The striker scored her second goal of the match fourteen minutes before full-time, directing the ball into the goal with her head from the edge of the box after getting to the end of Refilwe Tholakele’s looping cross.
The twinkle toed forward completed her hattrick five minutes into stoppage time with a simple tap in but before that Priviledge Mupeti had given the hosts hope of a comeback in the 84th minute with a headed goal.
The Mighty Warriors need nothing short of a miracle to overturn the two goal deficit in Francistown on Wednesday next week and book a ticket to the Awcon finals scheduled for Morocco in July.
This year’s Awcon competition will also double as a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“Botswana came and scored three goals, with the right mindset we can still score there like they did and upset them in their home ground. Of course it’s going to be a very tall order and we need a lot of mental fitness from the players,” Mighty Warriors coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda said after the match.
“It was a very intense game of football, very physical like we had anticipated because they brought their physical presence into the game.
“I think the mistake that we made is that our players tried to absorb the pressure and as we absorbed the pressure we then played to their strength, which is playing the long ball,” she added.
Zimbabwe were unlucky not to take a lead into half time after striker Rudo Neshamba had a seemingly legitimate goal flagged for offside after the half hour mark.
Rutendo Makore had a chance cannon off the upright post late in the first half.
Zimbabwe: L Magwede, E Msipa (c), N Ncube, V Mharadzi, D Bhobho, E Tumbare, E Mutumbami, M Nyaumwe (B Kabwe 89′), M Mafuruse (M Chirandu 69′, R Neshamba, R Makore (P Mupeti 82′)
Botswana: L Moeng, K Mochawe, M Montsho, G Selebatso, R Tholakele, M. Thanda, R Radiakanyo, K. Dithebe ( L Gaofetoge 67′), B Otlahagile, V Mogotsi, B Johannes