Likuena’s freefall wor­ri­some

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

THE na­tional soc­cer team, Likuena, have only won three of the 19 matches they have played since Seep­hephe Matete was ap­pointed in­terim coach fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Les­lie Notši early last year.

Matete started his ten­ure with a 1-0 loss to Swazi­land at Setsoto Sta­dium and won against Liberia, Kenya and Tan­za­nia in an un­flat­ter­ing reign that must surely now be wor­ri­some even to his most loyal sup­port­ers.

The record tells it all — that all has not been well for the team and it is only nat­u­ral that ev­ery foot­ball fan in this coun­try is wor­ried to the ex­tent that they have started call­ing for the coach to be sacked.

one of the rea­sons for that call is that the team had shown a lot of im­prove­ment un­der Notši and ap­peared des­tined for even greater suc­cess, which has how­ever, not been the case at all.

of course, many of the fans’ con­cerns have been the chang­ing and chop­ping of the squad which saw Matete travel to ethiopia with Nkau Lerotholi as the only nat­u­ral cen­tre-back in the team.

i must say it was also a con­cern for me when Thabo Ma­su­alle was dropped from the squad when Le­sotho failed to make it past the group stage in last month’s Coun­cil of South­ern Africa Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tions (COSAFA) tour­na­ment held in Rusten­burg, South Africa.

i was also un­com­fort­able that Likuena used Thabiso Mo­hapi at right back, when he plays in midfield at club level.

it’s only nat­u­ral that fans are now call­ing for the coach’s head af­ter the 1-2 loss to Ethiopia be­cause Likuena have been very dis­ap­point­ing in re­cent months.

There is no deny­ing the fact that some­thing has to be done — and done quickly — be­fore more dam­age is done as our pride, as a na­tion, is at stake here.

i can­not re­ally say whether sack­ing the coach will be the so­lu­tion but some­thing should be done to help the team im­prove.

Some gu­rus have sug­gested that maybe ap­point­ing a tech­ni­cal team com­pris­ing sev­eral coaches to help Matate could be the so­lu­tion as these are the peo­ple who work with the play­ers on a daily ba­sis.

The per­for­mance against ethiopia was not that bad com­pared what we saw in Rusten­burg in May, be­cause the two losses to Mada­gas­car and Swazi­land were the ul­ti­mate hu­mil­i­a­tion for Ba­sotho.

The fact that Likuena scored first against Mada­gas­car in the open­ing COSAFA match proved that our team is not that bad, sug­gest­ing the even­tual loss could have been the re­sult of tac­ti­cal blun­ders, and the same goes with the 2-0 de­feat against Swazi­land in the fol­low­ing tie.

if we could not do well in the COSAFA tour­na­ment, in which most na­tions use emerg­ing play­ers, maybe we were ex­pect­ing too much from Likuena against ethiopia, who were play­ing in their backyard and are a far much stronger side than the sec­ond-rate teams which were in Rusten­burg.

our de­fence, like i have said, has been the main worry be­cause we con­cede very soft goals as was the case in the re­gional com­pe­ti­tion, and that can only mean the team has not re­cov­ered from the loss of re­tired cap­tain, Moitheri Ntobo.

There is no doubt Ntobo’s part­ner­ship with cur­rent cap­tain, Nkau Lerotholi, had been one of the rea­sons that the team was so solid in the past.

This is one area i feel Matete should work on very se­ri­ously be­fore we face Africa’s num­ber one- ranked team, Al­ge­ria in the sec­ond Na­tions Cup qual­i­fier, or else we will be in for the beat­ing of our lives.

Al­ge­ria be­gan their cam­paign with a 4-0 win over Sey­chelles and we all know that they are a very good team of top-class play­ers who ply their trade in big­ger leagues across europe.

That’s why i say our team must be bet­ter pre­pared for the Desert Foxes of Al­ge­ria be­fore we face them in Septem­ber.

As­sess­ing Likuena’s per­for­mance, i feel the strik­ing de­part­ment is also cause for con­cern as the play­ers are strug­gling to score and the coach should also pay at­ten­tion to this mis­fir­ing area.

The sad part of it all is that the coach will not have a lot of time as they have to pre­pare for Sun­day’s African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship (CHAN) qual­i­fier against Botswana at Setsoto.

The Ze­bras will be com­ing here very wounded af­ter los­ing their open­ing AFCON qual­i­fier away to Uganda.

The other thing is Botswana have dom­i­nated Le­sotho over re­cent months, some they en­ter this tour­na­ment con­fi­dent of re­peat­ing that suc­cess.

The mes­sage i have for the Le­sotho Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Lefa) and of course, Likuena’s coaches, is that the na­tion is wor­ried with the per­for­mance of the team and hope they will sit down to­gether and find a so­lu­tion that will help end the poor run of form.

it is surely not good to be the laugh­ing stock of the con­ti­nent which is why the na­tion is de­mand­ing an im­proved per­for­mance when Likuena host Botswana on Sun­day and fin­ish the Ze­bras offs in the re­turn leg in Gaborone.

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