17 June 2017

Lesotho/Tanzania: Likuena Can Build On Tanzania Showing

LIKUENA put up a spirited performance in their opening 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match away to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Saturday to come away with a valuable point.

Tanzania may not be a continental giant but they are certainly a decent side with a number of their players plying their trade in Europe.

Likuena have an unenviable poor away record and this had become so bad that they could not even beat regional counterparts such as Swaziland and Botswana in their backyards.

But it was a different Likuena on Saturday, who refused to be intimidated by the hostile home crowd.

They did not drop their heads even when they were a goal down, continuing to pass the ball with so much aplomb.

That they eventually came back to force a 1-all stalemate suggested a team that is growing in stature with each game.

The goal was itself the product of an excellent team effort where striker Thapelo Tale showed composure inside the penalty box to restore parity.

It was a fitting reward for the perseverance of a player that has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for always squandering good goal scoring opportunities.

I have said it before that we are in a winnable group where each of the four teams have an equal chance of securing the sole automatic qualifying ticket for the continental competition in Cameroon in 2019.

Uganda may have fired the first warning shots by winning 0-1 away to Cape Verde on Sunday to claim top spot but there is still a long way to go.

What matters most is for Moses Maliehe and his charges to maintain or better Saturday's performance.

All the players looked motivated ahead of the trip to Dar es Salaam and they carried that onto the field of play.

Now that the next qualifying match will be in March next year when they host Cape Verde at Setsoto Stadium, the onus is on the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) to ensure the team remains motivated for the entire AFCON campaign.

It is high time LeFA did more to market the team and bring some companies on board as sponsors.

I really think that we stand a good chance of making it if the Likuena camp remains in harmony as even the six best placed runners up in the groups will also qualify for the tournament.

It would also be good if the likes of Basia Makepe and Tšepo Seturumane made peace with LeFA and rescinded their decisions to retire from the national team after their row over bonuses with the national association.

This is set to be a long and testing campaign and in the long run, Maliehe will need all the best players in his team.

All in all, I think there were a lot of positives that can be taken from the performance against Tanzania.

Maybe it would not be a bad idea after all to take the same team to the regional COSAFA Cup and try to win the tournament for the very first time.

I'm one of those who feel that the COSAFA Cup should be a platform for young players to get international exposure, but at the same time, I really feel that if we go with our tried and tested players then the target should be to win it.

There's no greater feeling than winning and that could be a springboard for greater achievements. After all, it is said that success attracts more success.

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