Senong upbeat about Likuena

Senong upbeat about Likuena

MASERU – Lesotho head coach, Thabo Senong, welcomes the underdog tag as he prepares Likuena for the uphill battle of qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

Lesotho’s journey begins next month with an away tie against Sierra Leone on November 11 before Likuena host continental heavyweights Nigeria eight days later.

The matches are part of a daunting Group L that also includes another West African nation in Benin. Despite the odds, Senong backed Likuena to put themselves in a good place to book a ticket at the 2021 AFCON finals which will be played in Cameroon.

Senong has called a provisional squad for the opening double salvo against Sierra Leone and Nigeria.  Speaking to thepost on Wednesday, the Likuena coach said he will not put his players under pressure. Instead, Senong said an “underdog” tag gives his charges room to spring surprises.

The South African-born mentor said his technical team’s main focus is on improving each player in the squad which will be the foundation of improving the national team’s performances as a whole.

“This game can throw different challenges, football has lots of surprises,” an upbeat Senong told thepost.“The team that works hard will be able to get into a spot that will help them qualify for Cameroon so I will respect all the teams equally and we have to make sure that we prepare thoroughly against every team but there will be lots of surprises. Benin is a very good team so is Sierra Leone, and Nigeria are the powerhouse of African football and maybe our tag is as the underdog,” he explained.

“I am comfortable with us being tagged as underdogs because that will put us in a room of always working hard and focusing in our game because our job is to surprise the so-called big guns without any pressure,” Senong added.

“We are not under pressure and I will never put the players under pressure but we are focused on improving every individual and we are focused on improving the performance of Likuena and that will help us get the results we want.”

Three weeks ago’, Lesotho suffered heartbreak when Likuena fell to Zimbabwe at the final hurdle in qualifying for the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) which robbed the nation of a first-ever continental appearance.

That defeat came on the heels of another disappointment in September when Likuena crashed out on away goals to Ethiopia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers despite dominating the tie.

Senong, however, has kept faith in his charges. He has kept the core of the team that faced Zimbabwe and only called up two debutants to the squad in Lioli goalkeeper Ntsane Molise and Liphakoe midfielder Thabo Matšoele.
Senong said it is important to maintain the team’s continuity.

He said Likuena’s coaching staff understands what is expected of them and improvements are already being seen in the players that were part of the CHAN squad. The AFCON qualifiers also allow Senong to recall his foreign legion and all Likuena regulars based in South Africa have been included to face Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The quartet of Bloemfontein Celtic’s Motebang Sera, Motlomelo Mkhwanazi (Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila) and the Black Leopards duo of Tshwarelo Bereng and Tumelo Khutlang have not enjoyed much playing time this season but Senong said their inclusion was not in question.

He said he has been updating the players about Likuena’s new tactical system and maintaining frequent communication with them.  “It’s a little bit unfortunate that our foreign based players are not getting any match minutes at the moment; Tshwarelo Bereng is the only one that is getting match minutes at Black Leopards,” Senong said.

“Other players are not getting any minutes but they are training. They don’t have any injuries so they are training in a competitive level so we just hope that their experience and quality will add the needed value and give them the confidence,” the Likuena coach added.

“You know the international breaks are all about psychology and team chemistry from the camp. They are all about tactical preparations. We will focus on that in order to get the best out of each and every player.”
Likuena provisional squad for 2021 AFCON qualifier against Sierra Leone & Nigeria:

Goalkeepers:
Sekhoane Moerane (LMPS), Ntsane Lichaba (Bantu), Ntsane Molise (Lioli)

Defenders:
Basia Makepe, Nkau Lerotholi (both LMPS), Bokang Sello (Bantu), Mohai Mohai, Lisema Lebokollane (both Matlama), Kopano Tseka (LCS), Motlomelo Mkhwanazi (Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, SA), Rethabile Rasethuntša (Linare)

Midfielders:
Tshwarelo Bereng, Tumelo Khutlang (both Black Leopards), Lehlohonolo Fothoane, Litšepe Marabe, Hlompho Kalake (all Bantu), Mohau Rammoneng, Thabo Matšoele (both Liphakoe), Phafa Tšosane, Jane Thaba-Ntšo (both Matlama), Thabo Seakhoa (LCS)

Strikers:
Nkoto Masoabi (Real Kings), Mokone Marabe (Bantu), Motebang Sera (Bloemfontein Celtic).

Tlalane Phahla

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