By Mikia Kalati
MASERU — Makoanyane XI coach Moses Maliehe says he is aware of the “massive test of character” his charges face when they clash with Swaziland in the first leg of the 2015 African Youth Championship first round qualifier set for Mbabane on Saturday.
Makoanyane XI, as the national under-20 football team is affectionately known, left the country yesterday, with Maliehe optimistic of upsetting the hosts in their own backyard and then finishing the job at Setsoto Stadium in the reverse fixture a fortnight later.
“We know what to expect against Swaziland because we played them in friendly matches late last year and also saw them in the Cosafa youth tournament Lesotho hosted in December,” Maliehe said.
“Of course, it will be a different ball-game to the friendly matches because there will be a lot at stake with both teams vying for a spot in the next round of the qualifiers.”
Maliehe said his team is ready both mentally and physically, and remains confident of advancing to the next stage of the continental showpiece at the expense of the Swazis.
“I would have liked to have more friendly games heading to this match, but it did not happen and we are not going to complain about it,” said Maliehe.
“Our target is to go to Swaziland and win the first leg match. It will also be important to make sure that we are solid in defence because conceding goals could come back to haunt us in the second leg tie.”
Maliehe, who was assistant coach to Leslie Notši when Makoanyane XI qualified for the 2011 edition of the tournament, also believes that experience would be invaluable as he guns for Lesotho’s third appearance at the continental showcase.
Meanwhile, Maliehe said there are seven new faces in his team while the rest are tried and tested campaigners who played in last December’s Cosafa Cup that Lesotho exited in the first round despite not losing any of their three matches.
The new faces, he said, replaced the likes of captain Mafa Moremoholo, Sepiriti Malefane, Hlompho Kalake and Tokelo Majoro who no longer qualify for this age-group.
Notši, on his part, has backed Maliehe and his team to overcome Swaziland and advance to the next stage of the biennial competition.
“I watched this team during the Cosafa tournament last year and I feel they have what it takes to advance to the next phase of this competition,” Notši said
“They looked solid and strong on the ball, but I still feel they would have become better playing a few friendly matches during their preparations.”
The former national team mentor said his 2011 squad had been together “for a long time”, which he said made his job easier.
“We had become one happy family and the results were good in the end,” said Notši.
“Ntate Maliehe was also part of our technical team and knows what is expected to succeed in continental competitions. That is why I’m confident the team will do well, although I would like to advise them of the need to have a good plan when playing away from home because of the hostile conditions they will face.”
Monyatsi Joackim Lehlohonolo, Lichaba Jeremiah Thabiso, Selepe Albin Madala, Makhakhe Sabstian Hlalele, Moerane Sekhoane Benedict, Khutlang Tumelo, Matšoele Michael Thabo, Maime Rapaulina Marcellus, Rammoneng Emmanuel Mohau, Mokoaleli Tšoarelo, Jabari Patrick Tlhokomelo, Lekhooa Cristopha Teboho, Mohai John Mohai, Lesoetsa John Morapeli, Tekane Lepolesa Moeketsi, Mankoane Thuso, Mongali David Thabo, Mokhatholane Moses Libomo, Rankhasa Nkesi, Thaba-ntso Jane, Molapo John, Brown Thabiso.