likuena set cosafa target

likuena set cosafa target

Maseru – For years Lesotho has toiled to win a trophy on the international football stage, to no avail.
The closest the country came was in 2000 when Likuena enjoyed a fairy-tale run to the COSAFA Castle Cup final, felling giants Zambia and Angola along the way, before falling to Zimbabwe at the final hurdle.

13 years later Lesotho again advanced to the championship rounds of the COSAFA showpiece, reaching the last four, but once more had its dreams dashed by Zimbabwe.

Breaking the national side’s duck is the Holy Grail for every Likuena coach and the latest man to try is Moses Maliehe who has set his sights on at least making the final four when the 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup kicks off next month.

Lesotho’s task will be made easier by the fact Likuena will begin the tournament in the quarterfinals where they are slated to meet Namibia on July 4.

Lesotho’s first-ever automatic progression to the last eight is its reward for recent good showings at the COSAFA Cup.
In last year’s competition, when Maliehe was still in caretaker charge, Likuena passed through group stages unbeaten before succumbing to eventual champions South Africa on penalties in the quarters.

Now Lesotho is ranked amongst the tournament’s top six nations alongside South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Swaziland, and will start their campaigns at the quarterfinal stage. It means a shorter path to glory.

“Our target as Likuena is to play football that will give good results,” Maliehe said. “When we were playing in the COSAFA games last year we managed only to reach the quarterfinals, so this time around our target is to pass the quarterfinal stage,” he asserted.

Maliehe, unsurprisingly, is relieved to skip the gruesome group stage where teams play three games in four days.
“Many players from the teams that start from the group stage will be encountering injuries; they will be tired mentally and physically,” Maliehe explained.

“It’s true the team (that start from the group stages) will gain momentum but to qualify from that stage is not easy. But, at the same time, we will not be resting.”

With the COSAFA Cup representing Lesotho’s best chance at winning silverware, Maliehe said last week’s draw accelerated preparations. His squad was finalised and friendlies were arranged.

On Wednesday, Likuena left the country for a friendly against Swaziland on Friday.
The game will start a demanding period for Maliehe’s charges.

Lesotho will play West African nation Mauritania in a friendly on June 4 in Pretoria. And, even before their COSAFA mission starts, Likuena will have the serious business of beginning their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers away against Tanzania on June 10. Then, immediately after the COSAFA Cup, Likuena have a two-legged 2018 African Nations Champions (CHAN) qualifying tie against Comoros.

“On the 25th (of June) we will be going to our COSAFA tournament and on the 14th (of July) we will start our CHAN games against Comoros (away). On the 21st (of July) we will be playing here in Lesotho (for the second leg),” Maliehe said.

“The COSAFA games start on the 25th of June, so when we start, based on our previous performance, we will start in the quarterfinals while other teams will have already started playing,” he said.

The Likuena boss also welcomed next week’s friendly match against Mauritania saying it will greatly help preparations.
“In order to win, one has to start playing and preparing themselves in time,” Maliehe said.

“These players (in the Likuena squad) come from their clubs after a long season. We have to manage their fatigue and we don’t have to pressurise them. These games that we have (against Swaziland and Mauritania) for preparations are enough since have been preparing ourselves since the beginning of the year,” he added. Maliehe has called up a squad of 26 players.

The new faces in the squad are headlined by Napo Matsoso who joined New England Revolution in the United States top-flight in January. He is joined by Itumeleng Falene from Bantu and Sky Battalion’s Tsietsi Motšeare on the new boys list while the captain will be Bokang Mothoana of Kick4Life.

“Our preparations are going well,” Maliehe said. “We are gaining momentum and it is important that we play friendly games before we play our official matches so that one will see how we have to play in the official games.”

Mohloai Mpesi

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