Makoanyane XI face SA test

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Makoanyane XI defender Lesia Thetsane in action against Mozambique in the last round of the qualifiers at Setsoto Stadium
Makoanyane XI defender Lesia Thetsane in action against Mozambique in the last round of the qualifiers at Setsoto Stadium

Mikia Kalati

Makoanyane XI host South Africa at Setsoto Stadium on Sunday in the first leg of the final qualifier of the 2017 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations.

Lesotho beat Mozambique 2-1 in the last round of the campaign while South Africa’s Amajita overcame Namibia 2-0.

Makoanyane XI manager, Thabo Pule, told the Lesotho Times the team was aware of the huge task that awaits Lesotho come Sunday and the return leg a fortnight later as they battle to be among the seven nations which qualify for the youth tournament set for Zambia from 26 February – 12 March 2017. Zambia automatically qualify for the tournament as hosts, while the first four teams would proceed to the 2017 Fifa Under-20 World Cup to be held in South Korea.

But according to Pule, the Lesotho camp was confident of upstaging South Africa because of their players’ experience of elite football.

“This is a very important match for us and we know it will not be easy against South Africa,” Pule said,

“There is so much rivalry between the two countries when it comes to football and the fact that we knocked them out in the qualifiers of the same competition in 2011 makes it even more difficult.

“They will surely come here with one thing in their mind, which is revenge.”

Pule further said their only worry was star-striker Roboama Koloti, who was injured in a practice match last weekend.

The Sundawana striker scored 13 goals last season and Pule said it would be a big blow should he fail to recover for Sunday’s fixture which Lesotho should win to take a comfortable cushion into the reverse fixture set for 22–24 July.

“He sat out training on Monday and Tuesday but we are confident that he will be okay come match-day,” said Pule.

“It will really be a big blow if he fails to recover because he is our top man who scored the winner in our last match against Mozambique.

“However, we also have Bonang Mohapi who is an equally good striker but was not available for the last match due to suspension.”

Pule said the team never took a break since eliminating Mozambique on 12 June and is adamant they would rise to the occasion against the South Africans.

“It is never easy when we play our neighbours, but we have been hard at work over the past month preparing for this game,” Pule said.

“We believe the players are in good shape and will rise to the occasion and beat their South African counterparts.”

Meanwhile, the South African contingent is expected in the country today. According to South Africa’s KickOff magazine, coach Thabo Senong is confident his charges would beat Lesotho.

Senong told the magazine: “We are excited about being back in camp and we are looking forward to the tie against Lesotho on the weekend. The sole focus this week is converting our chances because we missed many of them in our previous games. In future matches, this could lead to our downfall if we don’t rectify it now.

“At this level if you don’t bury your chances you will be punished. And also it is important that players get used to scoring at this age so that when they progress to higher national teams it becomes routine.

“Another challenge is that at this time of the year it is winter in the southern hemisphere, but colder in Lesotho where it sometimes reaches freezing point, so we have to prepare our boys for the conditions we might come across in Maseru – so they have to be ready mentally.”

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