THE senior national soccer team, Likuena, has stepped up its preparations for the crucial back to back Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers clashes with Benin next month.
Likuena face Benin in the first leg match at Stade Charles de Gualle in Port Novo on 25 March 2020 with the return leg penned in for Setsoto Stadium four days later.
As part of the team’s preparations, it played Bloemfontein Celtic on Tuesday winning the friendly 3-5 in Bloemfontein.
Likuena coach Thabo Senong said the tie was one of a series of matches lined up to prepare for the AFCON qualifiers. He said they are targeting maximum points against Benin to enhance their chances of making a historic AFCON appearance at the Cameroon edition next year.
“We have a series of friendly matches and we are using them as a tool to prepare for Benin,” Senong said this week.
“The only way to go to AFCON finals is if we can win the upcoming two matches against Benin.
“We know that Benin are a good team but we can beat them. We have analysed their game and noted their weaknesses.”
He however, said they would intensify work on their defence as the side continued to concede cheap goals.
“We started slowly and that is our biggest challenge. Sometimes we fail to recover. Fortunately, today (Tuesday) we managed to come back from a goal down to win the match. We must focus more on our charges’ mentality because they need to be strong.
“Benin have a good team and can score goals, so we must be disciplined starting from the first whistle.
“We have continued to give away cheap goals and I was disappointed with that. I am happy that at least, we still have three weeks to go, so we can work on that.”
Senong said he was impressed with the new additions Thabang ‘Malane, Monyatheli Ntobo, Refiloe Mothae and Tieho Ntulo whom he said were adapting well.
“We must just avoid putting them under any pressure. However, we will also rely on the senior players to help them settle as we head into the final three weeks of our preparations.
“We will be working on organisation especially in set plays because Benin are dangerous in set plays.
“Our advantage is that they are bigger and slower hence we must work on retaining possession and pace.”
Senong travelled with a 24-man squad to Bloemfontein where they played three 35-minute halves and he said they would trim the side to 19 when they report for the full camp on 16 March when South Africa based players join the rest of the team.
He also said they are hoping to have a camp in Johannesburg before they depart for Benin.
Lesotho is currently third in Group L with one point from two matches. Nigeria lead the group with six points followed by Benin with three points and Sierra Leone with one point.