Likuena face Cosafa test
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.