Lesotho begins its 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup campaign on Sunday against Mauritius. Likuena are in Group B alongside Angola, Malawi and Mauritius and only the top team will progress to the quarterfinal stage to face South Africa. The margin for error, therefore, is low and it is likely a minimum of two wins will be needed for any side to advance.
Worryingly, Likuena have hit a rocky run heading into the tournament. Likuena lost a trio of friendly games to Botswana and Swaziland and on Sunday suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Ethiopia at Setsoto Stadium in a 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier. Despite the setbacks, Likuena caretaker boss Moses Maliehe is still confident heading into the tournament and here are five players that could make the difference for Lesotho.
|Jane Thaba-Ntšo (right) in action for Matlama|
Thaba-Ntšo had a wonderful 2015/16 campaign for Matlama and was one of the Vodacom Premier League’s best players. The attacking midfielder finished with 13 goals, the second best haul in the league, including a goal of the season contender against Kick4Life on the final day of the season. Promisingly for Likuena, Thaba-Ntšo has taken his form onto the international scene. He was on target against Ethiopia on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium and put in an all-round energetic display. That’s what Thaba-Ntšo brings to the team, constant probing in the final third and this is an opportunity for him to impress scouts.
|Wing wonder... Tumelo Khutlang|
Khutlang wasn’t in the starting line-up when Lesotho played against Ethiopia on Sunday but he figures he will be a key figure even if his role will be to come off the bench in Namibia. The winger has the skill to trouble defences and his direct style can be a nightmare for defenders. With United Stated based forward Tšotleho Jane unavailable for the COSAFA Castle Cup, Khutlang may even find himself starting in the first game against Mauritius. One thing that has been evident is his fearless approach is needed in an offence that can at times be too stagnant.
|Bokang Sello (left)|
Sello was one of Lesotho’s better performers in Sunday’s loss to Ethiopia as he kept up what has been a steady campaign. The leftback was one of the unsung heroes for Lioli in their double winning campaign and he will be Likuena’s first choice on the left of defence in Namibia. Fullback is always a key position in tournament play and Sello has the pace to keep up with nippiest wingers and his positioning has improved over the past year. He also has an educated left foot and he may be decisive when it comes to deliveries from crosses and set-pieces.
|Daniel Jousse lifted by Liteboho Mokhesi|
Like Sello, Jousse was a top performer against Ethiopia and he appears to have edged Liteboho Mokhehle for Lesotho’s number one jersey. He has long been a talented keeper having played for Lesotho’s Under-15, 17, 20, 23 teams and making his Premier League debut as a teenager in 2007. However because several contractual disputes his career stagnated somewhat and never quite cracked the national side. However, since joining LCS in 2014 he has found his feet and has been a good player for LCS. As his performance at Setsoto showed, he comes into the tournament on form. He is also a player to watch because he is Lesotho’s last line defence, the most important position on the pitch.
Seturumane is the best finisher in the squad and if goals are to come for Likuena they are likely to come from his boot. He is coming into the tournament without an international goal since 2015 and he will be desperate to find his scoring touch in Namibia. Seturumane has experience of this stage having been part of the Likuena team that reached the semi-finals in 2013 in Zambia. Like others on this list the COSAFA Cup tournament is also a chance for Seturumane to show that his talents deserve to be playing outside of Lesotho.