National football team coach, Seephephe Matete, has called on his charges to rise to the occasion in tomorrow’s “do or die” Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group C match against Angola set for Setsoto stadium.
Lesotho have a single point from their opening two matches of the final phase of the two-legged qualifiers after losing 2-0 to Burkina Faso and drawing 1-1 against Gabon.
Any other result tomorrow apart from a win would be disastrous for the team, popularly known as Likuena among fans.
“I had very serious talks with the players on Sunday when they came into camp,” Matete on Tuesday told the Lesotho Times.
“I had to explain to the boys how important this match is to the nation. This is a do-or-die match for us because if we do not win, our chances of making history ends here; our dream of making a historic first appearance at the Afcon ends at Setsoto before our very own fans.”
The veteran mentor said his team should at least take four points from the two back-to-back matches against Angola, should they fail to get all six points.
Likuena travel to Luanda on Wednesday next week to face the same Palancas Negras in the second leg of the qualifiers.
Angola have lost their two opening matches of Group C against Burkina Faso and Gabon, and Matete believes their confidence could be very low—and which he says Likuena could exploit, thereby reviving their hopes of a maiden Afcon tournament appearance.
“We have to dominate the match from the word go because if we do that, I think it will boost our confidence to get early goals as we will also be enjoying home-ground advantage,” said Matete.
Nkau Lerotholi is set to make a return to the starting line-up after missing last month’s draw against Gabon due to suspension, while first-choice goalkeeper, Mohau Kuenane, would be absent after receiving a red card in the match.
Another blow to Likuena is the absence of striker Thapelo Tale, who gave a man-of-the-match performance against Gabon before he was forced out of the game due to injury.
“Lerotholi is back, which is a big boost to our defence. As for Kuenane, we have Bantu’s Kholuoe Phasumane and Liteboho Mokhesi, who are both good goalkeepers and I think they will do the job for us.”
However, Matete admitted Kuenane and Tale would be missed as both players had become key cogs in the national team set-up over the last two years.
“We will definitely miss them as Kuenane will miss the two matches against Angola, Tale is out for three weeks. However, I’m confident we have good replacements who can also fly the country’s flag high.”
The Likuena mentor also explained the team would be missing America-based attacking midfielder, Jane Tšotleho, due to financial problems.
“Like I have said before, I really wanted to have him for this match, but the association (Lesotho Football Association) has been struggling to get funds from government which makes it difficult for us to fly him from the US,” he said.
Meanwhile, Friday’s match could see national under-20 (Makoanyane XI) striker, Thabiso Brown, being thrown in at the deep end to fill the void left by Tale as the other forward, Tšepo Lekhooana, is off-form. Lekhooana has even been struggling to get regular game-time at his club, Lioli.
Matlama’s Phafa Tšosane, who was outstanding during last weekend’s Independence Cup tournament, is also back in the national team after he was left out for the matches against Burkina Faso and Gabon.
Tšosane was named player-of-the-tournament, while his teammate, Teboho Mota, who is yet to play for Likuena in an official game, has also earned himself a call-up.
Mota was also outstanding as Matlama shocked Bantu to reach the final of the Independence tournament, and despite ending on the losing side following a 10-11 penalty shootout loss to Lioli, was still named goalkeeper-of-the-tournament.
Angola are expected in the country this morning, with tomorrow’s match kicking-off at 7pm at Setsoto.
Goalkeepers: Liteboho Mokhesi, Kholuoe Phasumane, Mohau Kuenane.
Defenders: Tsoanelo Koetle, Thabo Masualle, Nkau Lerotholi, Basia Makepe, Moitheri Ntobo, Jeremea Kamele, ,Lisema Lebokollane.
Midfielders: Motlalepula Mofolo, Bushy Moletsane, Ralekoti Mokhahlane, Teboho Mota, Phafa Tsosane, Lekhanya Lekhanya, Mabuti Potloane,
Strikers: Tšepo Lekhoana, Thabiso Brown, Tšepo Seturumane.
GROUP C standings
Fixtures and results
06/09/14: Gabon 1-0 Angola
06/09/14: Burkina Faso 2-0 Lesotho
10/09/14: Angola 0-3 Burkina Faso
10/09/14: Lesotho 1-1 Gabon
11/10/14: Gabon v Burkina Faso
11/10/14: Lesotho v Angola
15/10/14: Burkina Faso v Gabon
15/10/14: Angola v Lesotho
14-15/11/14: Lesotho v Burkina Faso
14-15/11/14: Angola v Gabon
19/11/14: Burkina Faso v Angola
19/11/14: Gabon v Lesotho.