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Last throw of the dice for Likuena

by Lesotho Times
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Mikia Kalati

Likuena play Burkina Faso and Gabon in their last two 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, starting with a home match against the Stallions at Setsoto Stadium this Saturday.

The West Africans won the first leg match 2-0in Ouagadougou and surely come to Lesotho as favourites to clinch Saturday’s tie as they are in second position on the four-nation Group C of the continental football qualifiers.

I must say, things have not turned out the way I expected. After the group stage draw was conducted, I was confident we had a chance of at least qualifying for the Afcon tournament by clinching second position in the group, which also includes table-topping Gabon and third-placed Angola.

Likuena started  the campaign reasonably well despite the loss to Burkina Faso. However, that dream of seeing my beloved national football team play in the Afcon Finals vanished when we failed to beat Angola at home—a team I believe is the weakest team in the group. That match ended goalless.

However, the Palancas Negras would do the job in the return leg as they handed Likuena their biggest defeat since the qualifiers began, thrashing Seephephe Matete’s charges 4-0 in Luanda.

This was a bitter pill for all of us to swallow as we had hoped to see our team playing in the continental competition for the first time.

Likuena had looked very promising, after conquering Liberia and Kenya to get to the group stage of the competition.

The team had looked strong and the players in a good mood to complete the challenge and go down in history as the golden generation that took Lesotho to their first ever Afcon tournament appearance.

However, once again the damage had already been done prior to the trip to Luanda with the players and Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) locked in a bonus row that had hurt our team’s progress in different competitions for so many years.

At the moment, chances are very slim that Likuena will qualify for Afcon 2015, but there is still a lot to play for in these fixtures.

Our pride is still at stake, which is why I hope that our players will rise to the occasion and make us proud.

Likuena currently have two points from four games, while group-leaders Gabon are on eight and as things stand, it looks like the race for the two automatic qualification spots will go down to the wire.

I’m not convinced the bonus issue has been properly resolved as the players are still not happy, but we will see how it goes on Saturday against Burkina Faso and away in Libreville next Wednesday.

I really wanted to see our captain, Moitheri Ntobo, play at Afcon before he calls time on his playing career.

Ntobo has served this country with all he has since he was handed his international debut in 2000.

The no-nonsense defender has been a good servant to the beautiful game and like he has said, he would have wanted to end his career by playing at such an important competition.

Surely these two Afcon matches will be the last for him as far as the national team is concerned and I hope his teammates will give him the best send-off and perform well in both matches.

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