The Botswana side that will compete at the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship starting next month have been hard at work for some weeks, fine-tuning their plans with the aim of going one better than last year.
The Mares were beaten finalists in 2020 after a narrow 2-1 loss to South Africa and will return to Nelson Mandela Bay in the hope of this time lifting the trophy for the first time.
Coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang has named a provisional squad of 30 players, including a number who are plying their trade overseas.
“We have called into camp a balanced team that has both youth and experience,” Nkutlwisang said. “Our international players will join the camp closer to the tournament. We believe active players will greatly assist our team going into the upcoming tournament.
“We are going there to compete but for now we should prepare hard and focus on the quest at hand.”
Among the overseas-based players, Thuto Ramafifi and Nthabiseng Mogatle have received a call from the United States, while Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies goalkeeper Sedilame Bosija has also been given the nod.
So too have the Zambia-based trio of Warona Malete, Lone Gaofetoge and Thando Mokgabo.
Botswana face a difficult first round Group B that also contains guest nations Tanzania and South Sudan, as well as Zimbabwe.
Nkutlwisang will use the tournament not just to secure regional bragging rights, but also as vital preparation for the start of the 2022 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in October.
Botswana face-off against Angola in their first round tie, and if they advance past them will meet either Zimbabwe or Eswatini in the next stage.
It means their clash with Zimbabwe at the COSAFA Women’s Championship could have extra significance as a dress rehearsal for what is to come.
In fact, they will come up against some familiar foes all round. The Mares advanced from a three-team first round pool last year 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.