Likuena face Cosafa test

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Mikia Kalati

Likuena in­terim coach Moses Maliehe be­lieves his charges will re­deem them­selves at the up­com­ing Cosafa tour­na­ment set for Namibia from 11−25 June.

The na­tional football team were de­feated 1-2 by Ethiopia on Sun­day in their penul­ti­mate Group J qual­i­fier of the 2017 Africa Cup of Na­tions (Afcon) to con­tinue on a los­ing streak that started with one de­feat to Botswana and two losses to Swazi­land in prepara­tory ties.

But although Maliehe ad­mits the string of losses have put him and the team in an un­en­vi­able po­si­tion, he still be­lieves Likuena would come good at the Cosafa tour­na­ment.

Le­sotho were drawn in Group B along­side Malawi, An­gola and Mau­ri­tius while Group A com­prises Zim­babwe, Swazi­land, Sey­chelles and Mada­gas­car.

In the quar­ter­fi­nals, South Africa face Group B win­ners, while Zam­bia play Group A cham­pi­ons. Botswana bat­tle Namibia and DR Congo take on Mozam­bique in the other quar­ter­fi­nal matches.

Last year, Likuena were beaten 2-1 by Mada­gas­car in their opening match of the tour­na­ment held in South Africa and lost the next tie 2-0 to Swazi­land to crash out of the com­pe­ti­tion at the first hur­dle. Although they beat Tan­za­nia 1-0 in the last match, it was too lit­tle too late for the Moun­tain King­dom.

And af­ter watch­ing his charges go down to Ethiopia at Set­soto on Sun­day, Maliehe knows Likuena can­not af­ford any more losses if the team is to earn the re­spect of the fans.

“Of course, it was dis­ap­point­ing los­ing to Ethiopia on Sun­day, but there were many pos­i­tives to be taken in the way we played,” Maliehe said.

“But this is a new team and I think in the end, the play­ers ac­quired the ex­pe­ri­ence they needed to get it right at this level.

“The big­gest chal­lenge re­mains mak­ing good use of the chances we cre­ate dur­ing games, although I feel against Ethiopia, we lost the bat­tle in mid­field.”

Maliehe also said he had se­ri­ous talks with his play­ers af­ter Sun­day’s de­feat which was Le­sotho’s fourth in the five 2017 Afcon matches they have played so far. The only win was a 2-1 over Sey­chelles, but Le­sotho are still bot­tom of Group J on three points, while Sey- chelles are third on four points, Ethiopia are sec­ond on eight and lead­ers Al­ge­ria are on 13. All the four teams are left with one match to com­plete their Group J qualifiers whose win­ner au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fies for the 2017 Afcon tour­na­ment to be held in Gabon.

“I talked with the play­ers fol­low­ing the loss to Ethiopia,” said Maliehe.

“As much as it has been dif­fi­cult, we have to pick up the pieces and sol­dier on. Hope­fully, things will im­prove at the Cosafa tour­na­ment be­cause the tar­get is to do our coun­try proud.

“We have con­tin­ued to work hard in train­ing and the play­ers are re­spond­ing well, and hope­fully, they will be very mo­ti­vated to do their coun­try proud in Namibia.”

How­ever, Maliehe ad­mits Likuena would have to be at their best to progress from their pool.

“We will go there to give our best for our coun­try know­ing that it will not be easy be­cause we are in a very tough group.

“What mat­ters is for us to learn from our mis­takes and give a bet­ter per­for­mance from what we did in our pre­vi­ous matches,” Maliehe said.

Likuena’s most suc­cess­ful cam­paign at the re­gional com­pe­ti­tion came in 2000 when the Mon­a­heng Monyane-led out­fit reached the fi­nal, only to be beaten 6-0 by Zim­babwe.

The team also reached the semi-fi­nal of the re­gional com­pe­ti­tion un­der Les­lie Notši in 2013.

The Le­sotho con­tin­gent was ex­pected to leave for Namibia last night.

Cosafa stats cour­tesy of Su­pers­port Zim­babwe and Zam­bia each won the Cosafa Cas­tle Cup four times. Zim­babwe head the all-time Cosafa Cas­tle Cup ta­ble with 30 vic­to­ries from 45 matches, hav­ing drawn eight matches and suf­fered seven de­feats. They also lead the goal-scor­ing stakes with 72 scored since they com­peted in the maiden event in 1997. They have con­ceded just 32 times.

Zam­bia have also played 45 games but won only 24 of those. Along with South Africa they have lost the fewest amount of games, six, among teams who have played in 10 or more games in their his­tory.

But Zam­bia’s story has been one of too many drawn games, with 16, or more than a third, from their matches.

South Africa have recorded the next most amount of wins with 18 from 35 games, but have also suf­fered from a high pro­por­tion of draws.

They have scored 42 goals, but con­ceded only 19, a fine de­fen­sive record. An­gola (15), Namibia (14), Mozam­bique (12), Swazi­land (11) and Malawi (10) have all reached dou­ble­fig­ures in terms of the num­ber of wins. Malawi and Le­sotho (both 17) have tasted de­feat the most in the tour­na­ment.

Likuena squad Goal­keep­ers: Lite­boho Mokhehle, Kananelo Makhooane De­fend­ers: Ba­sia Makepe, Kopano Tseka, Mkhwanazi Mkhwanazi, Sepir­iti Male­fane, Mafa More­mo­holo, Bokang Sello. Mid­field­ers: Ke­fuoe Mahula, Phafa Tšosane, Jane Tha­ban­tšo, Mabuti Pot­loane, Jerry Kamela, Mon­toeli Sonopo, Hlom­pho Kalake. Strik­ers: Tšepo Se­tu­ru­mane, Tumelo Khut­lang, Thabo Seakhoa, Mota­bang Sera.

Likuena winger Jane Tha­ban­tšo in ac­tion against Swazi­land on Fri­day last week. Likuena striker Tšepo Se­tu­ru­mane tries to evade ethiopian de­fend­ers at Set­soto Sta­dium on Sun­day.

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