Botswana coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang has named 10 players from Double Action Ladies in her preliminary squad for the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship that will be played in Nelson Mandela Bay from September 28-October 9.
The team reported for camp on Tuesday and includes a number of the players who excelled for Double Action in the recent 2021 TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers where they reached the semifinals.
But 12 clubs are represented in all as Nkutlwisang has cast her net far and wide, and will run her eye over the players before making a final decision on the composition of her squad.
And Nkutlwisang is not only building towards the COSAFA Women’s Championship, but also the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that start next month.
“We are on the final lap of our preparations,” Nkutlwisang said. “As you’d imagine we have a hectic 10 weeks ahead of us. We will prepare for the COSAFA championships with an eye on the AFCON qualifiers later in October.
“However, our focus for this month and October will be COSAFA. We did well in the last edition but that is now history, and we must now work on ensuring that we do better this year.
“We have players coming back from the recent COSAFA club competition and we are hopeful that their experience will add the much-needed verve and positive vibes to the team. To put the cherry on top, we are also expecting international players to join the team soon and boost the squad.
“The focus is in getting our team ready, in shape and on form. Our biggest quest is to fight with everything we have.”
Botswana reached the final last year but were edged by hosts South Africa in their search for a first ever regional title.
They begin their Group B campaign this year against guest nation South Sudan on Sept. 29, before a clash with Tanzania three days later. They finish their pool play versus Zimbabwe on Oct. 4. Only the top team in each pool and the best placed runner-up advance to the semifinals.
Last year they made it through to the decider from a three-team first round pool with a pair of 1-0 wins over Tanzania and Zimbabwe, before edging Zambia in a close semifinal.
That set up a decider against South Africa, but it was the home side who triumphed 2-1 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. It was still The Mares’ best finish in the COSAFA Women’s Championship and an excellent tournament overall.
They also made it through to the last four in 2019 but lost 4-0 to eventual runners-up Zambia. They went through the pool stages unbeaten though, defeating Namibia (1-0) and Mauritius (3-0), before playing to a 0-0 draw with Zambia.
They then lost the bronze-medal match, going down 3-0 to Zimbabwe.
But it is a vast improvement on past showings after they did not win a match in their opening three visits to the finals in 2002, 2008 and 2011. They broke that duck in 2017 with a 3-0 success over Lesotho.
They also managed draw against eventual champions South Africa, but it was not enough to advance from their pool as they finished second.
In 2018 they opened with a 2-0 win over Malawi, lost 1-0 to South Africa and drew 0-0 with Madagascar to finish runners-up in their pool.
Their very first match in the regional showpiece competition in 2002 ended in a 14-0 loss to South Africa.
That opening defeat was in fact the very first fixture of the national team, who are now celebrating 19 years of playing at international level.
The country has not yet qualified for a major championship, having entered the preliminaries for the last three FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, and for the African Women’s Championship since 2008.
They will face Angola in the preliminaries for the 2022 continental finals.
Botswana preliminary squad:
Goalkeepers: Bame Mokime, Tlamelo Pheresi (both Double Action), Gloria Moeng, Merilyn John (both BDF)
Defenders: Theo George (Wonder Girls), Goitsemang Tlamma, Annah Sechane (both Township Rollers), Thapelo Moshe (UB Kicks), Kesegofetse Mochawe, Selebatso Golebaone, Nancy Baeletsi (all Prisons XI), Masego Montsho (BDF), Amogleng Moahi (Geronah), Veronica Mogotsi, Leungo Senwelo, Balothanyi Johannes (all Double Action), Patricia Motingwa (Collabo), Lone Gaofetoge (Lusaka Dynamos)
Midfielders: Segakolodi Didukunyane (Mexican), Lesego Keleboge (Prisons XI), Mokgabo Thanda (Yasa), Bonang Otlhagile, Masego Nfandiso, Pineng Lesego, Laone Moloi (all Double Action)
Forwards: Atang Busang (Prisons XI), Refilwe Tholakele (Township Rollers), Warona Molete (Lusaka Dynamos), Lesego Radiakanyo (Double Action), Ontlametse Gaonyadiwe (Geronah), Lekgoa Lorato (Untouchable FC).