Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

WAFCON 2022: Burundi vs Botswana preview

Posted on 4 July 2022 by Alasdair Howorth
Image courtesy of CAF Media

In the battle of the debutants, Burundi take on Botswana for the first time in their history. Perhaps overshadowed by Group C’s other game, pitting Nigeria and South Africa together, for the two nations making their first appearance at a Women’s Africa Cup of Nations it is the most important game of the tournament.

The tournament has been expanded to 12 teams, meaning the two best third placed teams can make it through to the quarter-finals now. So a win today would go a long way in pushing either Burundi or Botswana to a historic quarter-final appearance. Kick off 21:00 BST.

The emergence East Africa’s youngest footballing nation

Just six years ago there was no senior national women’s team in Burundi, making them not only the youngest team at this tournament, but one of the youngest women’s teams in the world. Winning 10-1 is a pretty auspicious way to start a national team’s history, and Burundi have never come close to matching the result they had against Zanzibar in their first ever match in September 2016.

Not only are they the most inexperienced side coming into the tournament, but they are also by far the youngest side coming into the tournament. Goal keeper Belinda Ndoreraho is the sole player over the age of 30. They also have the youngest player in the history of the WAFCON in the shape of Gloris Gakiza, who has only 14 years and seven months to her name.

Despite the youthful nature of the team, they have enjoyed a successful last year. They put six goals past Eritrea in the first round of qualifying and followed that by putting eleven past Djibouti. Since then the Swallows had a solid CECAFA Championship in the build up to this tournament. They came out of their group, beating Rwanda and Djibouti. In the semi-finals they knocked out a fancied Tanzania side before falling to hosts and fellow CECAFA representatives at the WAFCON, Uganda.

Image courtesy of CAF media.

Their preparation has been solid, and they have played more teams than most in the build up to the tournament. However, the Swallows are yet to be tested by strong opposition. Their highest ranked opposition to date was Kenya, who are currently ranked 147th in the world.

Burundi have some weapons going forward. They can boast the talents of Falone Sumaili, who this season broke into the Huddersfield Town first team as well as the top scorer in Tanzania, Ashfa Djafari.

Mares coming to spoil the party

Like Burundi, Botswana are making their debut in this tournament, but they come into the tournament with significantly more experience than their opposition. The Mares have come a long way from their first match in 2002, a 14-0 thrashing at the hands of neighbours South Africa.

Despite not playing before in a WAFCON, by nature of being a stronger COSAFA region, Botswana have played stronger opposition like South Africa and Zambia regularly over the years and have made huge strides. Their greatest moment to date, coming in 2019 when they knocked out South Africa on penalties in Olympic qualifiers.

The team has also been in camp for longer than any other team coming into the competition. The locally based players met up in April before being joined by their internationally based players later. They played a double header against Zambia, losing narrowly before drawing, and since arriving in Morocco they played out a 1-1 draw with Togo.

Up front, the Mares poses a potent duo in captain Refilwe Tholakele as well as US based Thuto Ramafifi, nicknamed the ‘Queen of goals’. Behind the experienced duo, playmaker Lesego Radiakanyo will be looking to make her mark on the tournament. The 22 year old is the creative heart of the Botswanans, and has a penchant for scoring goals, including four that she scored in qualifying.

What they said

Assistant coach of Burundi Ininahazwe Belyse:

“We know that we need to prepare well. We are not afraid. We are here to show what we are capable of doing? Cecafa was a good opportunity for us to see the strength of our team and to prepare adequately for the AFCON.”

Head coach of Botswana Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang:

“The first game means a lot to us. Looking at our chance for the best chance to move onto the next stage. Three points will be the most important thing. We’re playing Burundi, we don’t know Burundi.”