In a battle between two nations making their competition debut at the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations, Botswana triumphed over Burundi by a 4-2 score on Monday to earn three points in Group C. Botswana captain Refilwe Tholakele scored twice and added an assist as well for the Zebras, who showed their attacking quality throughout and will be confident heading into games against heavyweights Nigeria and South Africa. Burundi have an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stage and will need a result against South Africa in their next match.
After taking some time to adapt to playing on a big stage, both teams awakened after the half hour mark when Burundi forward Sandrine Niyonkuru forced a save out of Zebras goalkeeper Sedilame Boseja at her near post with a powerful effort. Botswana began to take control towards the end of the first half and opened the scoring courtesy of an excellent dribbling run by Keitumetse Dithebe, who combined with Nondi Mahlasela before curling her shot beyond Burundi keeper Jeanine Irakoze in the 43rd minute.
Hardly a minute passed after halftime before Botswana doubled the lead. A sharp attacking movement saw Mokgabo Thanda pick out Tholakele on the left wing, who struck a precise low cross with the outside of her right foot to find Lesego Radiakanyo for an easy finish from close range. Burundi struck their first in the 52nd minute when star playmaker Asha Djafari’s shot was spilled by Boseja into the path of Niyonkuru for an easy finish on the rebound.
Tholakele responded for Botswana with force a few minutes later when she received a pass on the left wing and cut inside before thumping an excellent effort beyond Irakoze. On the hour mark Tholakele put Botswana beyond reach when a clearance attempt from the Burundian defense ricocheted off Thanda right to Mahlasela at the edge of the penalty area, who sent in Tholakele for a routine finish. Burundi got one goal back late on when a Djafari corner was headed to Niyonkuru for an excellent volley finish from ten yards out.
Highlights are below.