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AFCON dream should drive Likuena

by Lesotho Times

Mikia Kalati

LIKUENA host Cape Verde in an important 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Setsoto Stadium on Sunday.

Moses Maliehe’s side is hoping to build on it’s third place finish in the regional COSAFA Cup played in June this year in South Africa.

There is no doubt that the national team has acquainted itself well in the regional competition since Maliehe took over in 2016.

His side won their group and went all the way to the quarterfinals in Namibia in 2016 and reached the semi-finals in 2017 and 2018 respectively, where they lost to their hoodoo side Zimbabwe on both occasions.

In the 2018 edition of the regional competition, Maliehe’s charges went an extra mile in the third-place play-off and beat Madagascar 1-0 to clinch bronze having lost at the same level to Tanzania the previous year.

All eyes will be on Maliehe and his charges to rise to the occasion again playing in the more prestigious AFCON. A win against Cape Verde on Sunday puts Likuena on course to making history.

The country has never qualified for a major football competition but has a realistic chance to dance with the stars if they beat the Portuguese speaking side on Sunday.

Lesotho currently has one point after a 1-1 draw away to Tanzania in June last year in the opening round of the qualifiers and a win on Sunday can take them to four points before their next match against Uganda.

However, this will require commitment, dedication and bravery from the Likuena players against the Blue Sharks who have proven to be a very competitive side.

Cape Verde were regarded as minnows in continental football just a decade ago but they have since proved themselves to be a competitive side qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013 and 2015.

The fact that they are ranked 64 as opposed to Likuena’s 146 on the FIFA world rankings speaks volumes about the task that lies ahead of our national team.

This is the reason for which Likuena must give their best on Sunday. This is a chance for them to write a new chapter in the story of the beautiful game in the Mountain Kingdom.

Likuena are in Group L along with Uganda; who top the group with three points, Tanzania with one point and Cape Verde at the bottom without a point.

I still maintain that this is an open group and Lesotho, just like the three other contenders, have a realistic chance of qualifying for next year’s tournament to be staged in Cameroon.

This is the easiest that Lesotho have had in a long time based on the fact that in the previous qualifiers, only group winners had a chance of qualifying for the competition. However, this time around, runners-up will also qualify.

I have no doubt that if Likuena players can play without fear like they did at the COSAFA Cup, then they stand a good chance of grinding a good result against the Cape Verde side that has done well in the competition in recent years.

Of course, like most African countries, their players are bigger in stature and will be very physical on match day but Likuena also have their advantage in that they are very skilful and have pace.

They will need to give a spirited performance and use the home advantage.

I must say, I am a bit worried about the lack of match fitness of the team especially for the locally based players as the league is yet to start unlike in other countries where players have been in action.

The match will require the likes of Tumelo Khutlang, who has hit the ground running at Black Leopards in South Africa, to bring their A game. He is one player who has always made Likuena tick in recent years and has shown great work ethic in the Lidoda Duvha colours.

Likuena need such a performance on Sunday to pass the difficult test against the Blue Sharks.

It will however, take a fearless performance from all the players to overcome Cape Verde and make a big step towards the AFCON dream.

Good luck Likuena. This is the chance to rewrite history.

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