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“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Friday, March 22, 2013

Likuena face Zambia test

Lesotho faces Zambia in a colossal 2014 World Cup qualifier at the Setsoto Stadium on Sunday.

After a 7-0 loss away to Ghana and a 0-0 home draw with Sudan in the first two qualifiers last year, Sunday’s encounter represents a must-win game if Lesotho is to make any noise in this extremely difficult group.

Sunday’s game is also the second of Lesotho’s three at home and, as is widely-known, in Africa playing at home is an advantage teams have to make the most of.

Lesotho hosts Zambia in a 2014 World Cup qualifier
on Sunday
In their last home game Likuena played to a goalless draw with Sudan, a match in which Leslie Notši’s side played well without ever looking like they would grab all three points.

When it comes to Lesotho’s chances of causing an upset, Sunday’s game against Zambia comes at a pretty good time. Chipolopolo are coming off a disappointing 2013 Africa Cup of Nations campaign which has resulted in relative upheaval. Flamboyant coach Hervé Renard has since sidelined several veteran players such as strikers James Chamanga and Noah Chivuta.

There are question marks surrounding the team’s hunger as well the pressure from back home to beat a lowly-ranked Lesotho – Zambia is ranked 36th in the world and Likuena 166th.

These factors Lesotho can use to its advantage.

Lesotho’s home record since a self-imposed exile in 2010 isn’t bad; Lesotho is yet to concede a goal in a competitive game at Setsoto. Likuena beat Burundi 1-0 in August 2011 followed by 0-0 draws with Sao Tome (January 2012) and Sudan (July 2012). In fact, Setsoto has been a defensive fortress. Last year league champions LCS drew 0-0 with Uganda’s URA in the Caf Champions League. This year LCS beat Zimbabwe’s Dynamos 1-0.

So defensively things look good, it’s upfront where a marked improvement is needed. Goal-scoring has been a serious headache for Lesotho since the retirements of Teele Ntšonyana and Lebajoa Mphongoa and in an attempt to solve the problem Notši has recalled in-form Litšepe Marabe to his squad. The Bantu star is the top scorer in the league with 13 goals in 14 games.

Speaking in local media last week Leslie Notši said: “This is one of our toughest matches and we will have to do well playing at home with the home ground advantage. Zambia is a very good side. They have a team that has played together for more than four years and we will have to be at our best because they are one of the top teams in our region.”

Even at this early stage it feels as though Notši’s team may just be playing for pride. Zambia lead Group D with six points from two games, Ghana follow on four points with Sudan and Lesotho third and fourth with a point each.  

Zambia, chasing their first World Cup appearance, have made their intentions clear. “We are going to Lesotho to win; that is what matters. We have to score more than them,” said Renard.

Still, anything is possible. A win for Lesotho may seem a long-shot, but for inspiration Likuena can look to the last time the two nations met – a Cosafa Cup quarterfinal in 2000 at Setsoto which Lesotho won 1-0.

Likuena squad v Zambia

Goalkeepers: Liteboho Mokhehle (Lioli), Mohau Kuenane (Lioli)

Defenders: Moitheri Ntobo, captain (LCS), Thabo Masualle (Lioli), Tlali Maile (Bantu), Tšoanelo Koetle (Lioli), Janefeke Molibeli (LDF), Basia Makepe (Joy), Jerry Kamele (Joy)

Midfielders: Bokang Mothoana (US Monastir, Tunisia), Katleho Moleko (RC Athletico FC, South Africa), Ralekoti Mokhahlane (LCS), Mabuti Potloane (Linare), Litšepe Marabe (Bantu), Thabiso Mohapi (Bantu), Thulo Ranchobe.(LCS), Motlalepula Mofolo (Lioli)

Strikers: Mojela Letsie (LDF), Lehlomela Ramabele (Likhopo), Thapelo Tale (Likhopo), Tšepo Lekhoana (Maluti FET College, South Africa)

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