Botswana registered the biggest win of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) when they saw off fellow debutants Burundi 4-2 on Monday at the Moulay Hassan Stadium in Rabat.
The Mares opened their scoring through Karabo Dithebe a minute to the halftime mark when Keitumetse Dithebe found the back of the net with a beautiful curler into the top corner to set the ball rolling for Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang’s side.
With the lead, Botswana went into the break with their heads held up high while looking to extend their lead. A minute into the second half, Lesego Radiakanyo did just that as she doubled Botswana’s lead to 2-0.
Burundi reacted quickly, pushing to get onto the scoring sheet themselves and their efforts paid off when Sandrine Niyonkuru picked up a loose ball to send a fine shot past Botswana’s custodian Maitumelo Sedilame Bosija and keep Burundi’s hopes of winning the game alive.
At 2-1, both sides opened up and explored their strengths, but it was Botswana’s Tholakele who scored a quick brace in the 55th and 59th minutes to hand the Mares a 4-1 lead to knock the stuffing out of the Burundians.
It was clear that Botswana had a physical advantage over the East Africans who struggled to match the Mares quick, decisive and fast runs at goal. Niyonkuru found the back of the net in the 81st minute with a fine finish into the roof of the goal and ran straight to her coach – Gustave Niyonkuru.
“This is a historic moment for us as a country to be playing at the WAFCON and even though we have lost the game, it gave us an insight into how we should approach our upcoming games against Nigeria and South Africa, who are more physical than Botswana,” said coach Niyonkuru.
His counterpart on the other end, Nkutlwisang, said she was proud of her side’s performance. “Big up to the team. When we saw South Africa’s win over Nigeria, it motivated us. We saw that now we must win this game. We are so proud of the way we played today.”
“We are competing against the best teams and we are already looking forward to our next game and we want to continue improving.”
Botswana, who are now Group C table leaders, face Nigeria in their next game on Thursday, July 7 at 20:00 GMT while Burundi will be up against South Africa at 17:00 GMT.