Likuena’s freefall worrisome
The national soccer team, Likuena, have only won three of the 19 matches they have played since Seephephe Matete was appointed interim coach following the resignation of Leslie Notši early last year.
Matete started his tenure with a 1-0 loss to Swaziland at Setsoto Stadium and won against Liberia, Kenya and Tanzania in an unflattering reign that must surely now be worrisome even to his most loyal supporters.
The record tells it all—that all has not been well for the team and it is only natural that every football fan in this country is worried to the extent that they have started calling for the coach to be sacked.
One of the reasons for that call is that the team had shown a lot of improvement under Notši and appeared destined for even greater success, which has however, not been the case at all.
Of course, many of the fans’ concerns have been the changing and chopping of the squad which saw Matete travel to Ethiopia with Nkau Lerotholi as the only natural centre-back in the team.
I must say it was also a concern for me when Thabo Masualle was dropped from the squad when Lesotho failed to make it past the group stage in last month’s Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) tournament held in Rustenburg, South Africa.
I was also uncomfortable that Likuena used Thabiso Mohapi at right back, when he plays in midfield at club level.
It’s only natural that fans are now calling for the coach’s head after the 1-2 loss to Ethiopia because Likuena have been very disappointing in recent months.
There is no denying the fact that something has to be done—and done quickly—before more damage is done as our pride, as a nation, is at stake here.
I cannot really say whether sacking the coach will be the solution but something should be done to help the team improve.
Some gurus have suggested that maybe appointing a technical team comprising several coaches to help Matate could be the solution as these are the people who work with the players on a daily basis.
The performance against Ethiopia was not that bad compared what we saw in in Rustenburg in May, because the two losses to Madagascar and Swaziland were the ultimate humiliation for Basotho.
The fact that Likuena scored first against Madagascar in the opening COSAFA match proved that our team is not that bad, suggesting the eventual loss could have been the result of tactical blunders, and the same goes with the 2-0 defeat against Swaziland in the following tie.
If we could not do well in the COSAFA tournament, in which most nations use emerging players, maybe we were expecting too much from Likuena against Ethiopia, who were playing in their backyard and are a far much stronger side than the second-rate teams which were in Rustenburg.
Our defence, like I have said, has been the main worry because we concede very soft goals as was the case in the regional competition, and that can only mean the team has not recovered from the loss of retired captain, Moitheri Ntobo.
There is no doubt Ntobo’s partnership with current captain, Nkau Lerotholi, had been one of the reasons that the team was so solid in the past.
This is one area I feel Matete should work on very seriously before we face Africa’s number one- ranked team, Algeria in the second Nations Cup qualifier, or else we will be in for the beating of our lives.
Algeria began their campaign with a 4-0 win over Seychelles and we all know that they are a very good team of top-class players who ply their trade in bigger leagues across Europe. That’s why I say our team must be better prepared for the Desert Foxes of Algeria before we face them in September.
Assessing Likuena’s performance, I feel the striking department is also cause for concern as the players are struggling to score and the coach should also pay attention to this misfiring area.
The sad part of it all is that the coach will not have a lot of time as they have to prepare for Sunday’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier against Botswana at Setsoto.
The Zebras will be coming here very wounded after losing their opening AFCON qualifier away to Uganda.
The other thing is Botswana have dominated Lesotho over recent months, some they enter this tournament confident of repeating that success.
The message I have for the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) and of course, Likuena’s coaches, is that the nation is worried with the performance of the team and hope they will sit down together and find a solution that will help end the poor run of form.
It is surely not good to be the laughing stock of the continent which is why the nation is demanding an improved performance when Likuena host Botswana on Sunday and finish the Zebras offs in the return leg in Gaborone.