Likuena must redeem lost pride at Cosafa tournament

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Mikia Kalati

All eyes will be on Likuena interim coach Moses Maliehe at the regional Cosafa tournament which gets underway in Namibia this weekend.

The national football team are going through a tough patch after losing their last four matches—the latest coming on Sunday in a Nations Cup qualifier against Ethiopia at Setsoto stadium.

To make matters worse, Lesotho are in a very tough group which also comprises  Mauritius, Angola and Malawi.

And Maliehe needs to make sure Likuena at least go past the group stage to silence critics who have been savaging him and his team for poor results.

Likuena have only won one of the six matches Maliehe has been in charge of the team which has not gone down well with the fans because the team has lost to minnows and not the superpowers of continental football.

In Sunday’s 1-2 loss to Ethiopia, many things were wrong for Likuena especially the formation of the team which made the team ineffective.

The players’ poor individual performance did not help matters and hopefully, Maliehe would have fixed these issues before the Cosafa tournament gets underway on 11 June in Windhoek, if we are to avoid a humiliation.

Maliehe has been brave enough to keep faith in the players he selected despite calls to add a bit of experience into the team and he must now prove his coaching credentials by doing well in Namibia.

He must now lead by example and help the players get their groove back because back-to-back defeats might have hurt their confidence.

After watching the team struggle in recent matches, I believe Likuena need a few experienced campaigners such as Nkau Lerotholi, Thapelo Mokhehle and Tšoanelo Koetle.

In addition to their experience, the trio had a fantastic season at club level.

While one cannot question the selection of Basia Makepe and Kopano Tseka, who have been the best centre-back pairing in the league during the 2015/16 campaign, it also clear they lack experience when it comes to international football as they have conceded in each of the matches they have played.

It would be understandable if the losses were against top teams, but these defeats were against minnows Seychelles, Swaziland and Botswana.

Most of the players in the Likuena squad need time to get it right, but I think Lerotholi can play that crucial role that was played by Moitheri Ntobo for such a long time in terms of providing leadership and marshalling the defence.

The good thing is that Lerotholi has continued to play well at club level and still has a few good years left in his legs.

As for Koetle, we all know he is a difficult character, but no player in the current Likuena squad can match the Lioli holding midfielder.

Koetle is not in the team after walking out of camp in protest over allowances the players had been offered which he considered paltry.

His below-par performance in the just-ended season and row over allowances might have something to do with the disappointment of failing to secure a club outside Lesotho.

I believe Koetle has outgrown our league and should have been assisted to realise his dream of playing in bigger leagues and make the best out of his God-given talent.

The midfielder proved his quality during last year’s Cosafa competition in South Africa when he was voted man-of-the-match in back-to-back.

One would have believed he had done enough to secure a move to the South African league, for instance, but the talented playmaker still finds himself at Lioli which should be behind his dip in form and frustration.

Nonetheless, I hope Likuena will bounce back in style and win the Cosafa tournament for the first time, restoring the country’s pride at the same time.

 

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