Quote of the week

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

2018 COSAFA Cup gets underway on Sunday

Lesotho starts it 2018 COSAFA Cup in the quarterfinals against
Southern Africa’s national teams will converge on Polokwane in the north of South Africa over the next two weeks to decide this year’s COSAFA Cup champion.

In total 14 countries will battle it out at the regional championship which is again expected to be a tightly contested affair.  

Zimbabwe, who came through a gruelling schedule last year to win the tournament for a record fifth time, begin the defence of their title in the quarterfinals and are expected to be challenged closely by hosts South Africa and Zambia, who have both won the COSAFA Cup on four previous occasions.

The COSAFA Cup starts with eight teams divided into two groups for the opening week of competition with the two group winners then advancing to the knockout stage where they are joined by the top six ranked nations.  

The tournament will kick-off on Sunday with a Group A clash between Madagascar and Mozambique, who have both threatened to upset the odds at recent tournaments, before an island derby between the Comoros Islands and Seychelles.

Angola, who have won the competitions three times, head a strong field in Group B where they must get past Botswana and Malawi, both previous runners-ups, and Mauritius.

The schedule is taxing one for the eight first round competitors who play a game every second day with only the group winner advancing.
The tournament starts on Sunday with a clash between Mozambique
and Madagascar
There are two matches scheduled for every day from Sunday through to next Friday in the first round with the games played at both the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in the centre of Polokwane and the Seshego Stadium, on the outskirts of the city.

The winner of Group A has been drawn against South Africa in the quarter-finals on next week Sunday (June 3) while Group B’s winner will take on Zimbabwe later on the same day.   Before that the first two quarterfinals will take place next Saturday (June 2). They will see Zambia face the 2015 winners Namibia followed by Lesotho taking on Swaziland.

It is the first time in 10 years that all 14-member nations are competing as the Comoros return to the field for the first time in 2008.

“Looking at the squads selected, this promises to be a very tough competition,” said Timothy Shongwe, COSAFA’s chairman of competitions.

“The countries are all coming with top teams and it is difficult to see who is going to come out on top.”

Friday, May 18, 2018

Moses Maliehe names Lesotho squad for 2018 COSAFA Cup

Basia Makepe (left) returns to the Likuena squad after two years...
Lesotho coach Moses Maliehe has named an experienced squad for the upcoming 2018 COSAFA Cup to be held in South Africa’s Limpopo province from May 27 to June 9.

Maliehe’s 22-man squad includes Polish based Luciano Matsoso and Tshwarelo Bereng who was previously on the books of Chippa United in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL).

The two players will be playing at the regional tournament for the first time. Bereng earned his first cap for Lesotho in an international friendly against Namibia in March.

Maliehe has also recalled experienced centrebacks Nkau Lerotholi and Basia Makepe. The LMPS pair returns to the national team for the first time in two years after a self-imposed exile from international football.

The duo will bring valuable experience. Lerotholi captained Likuena at the 2015 edition of the COSAFA Cup and was a member of the Leslie Notši led side that reached the semi-finals in 2013 in Zambia.

Makepe, on the other hand, captained Lesotho at the 2016 tournament in Namibia where Maliehe made his debut as Lesotho coach on a caretaker basis and took the team to the quarterfinals.

Maliehe, however, will not be able to call on the services of Cambodian based attacker Jane ‘Sunny’ Tšotleho, after his club Phnom Penh Crown refused to release him for the regional showpiece.

“We have all the players that we had planned to have in the team apart from Tšotleho which is obviously a disappointment for us,” Maliehe said.

“His team was not willing to release him for the competition as it does not fall under the FIFA dates and we have made peace with that.”

Maliehe said he is looking to have continuity with his squad with the COSAFA Cup giving Likuena a chance to prepare for their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Cape Verde in September.

Maliehe added: “We will not be able to have friendly matches between the time we finish with the tournament and September as most of the players would be having their pre-season with their clubs.

Nkau Lerotholi (left) also returns...
“But we will go to the tournament and fight with what we have because the intention is to at least get to the final based on how well we have done in the previous two competitions.

“There are a number of players that will be playing at the tournament for the first time and it’s a chance for them to show what they can do going forward after a good season at club level,” he said.

There are younger faces in the squad with the in-form likes of Lebajoa Mosehlenyane, Lehlohonolo Fothoane and Monaheng Ramalefane included.

Mosehlenyane has been rewarded for excellent form for since joining Matlama from Bantu in January. The young forward was named player of the tournament after inspiring Tse Putsoa to the LNIG Top 8 title in April and has been a revelation all year. He is joined by Matlama teammate Ramalefane who was named goalkeeper of the tournament at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in December after his performances helped Lesotho reach the final.

There are a few surprises in Maliehe’s squad with the main one being the exclusion of Bantu captain Thapelo Mokhehle. There is also no space for Lioli’s Tšoanelo Koetle or former captain Bokang Mothoana of Kick4Life.

Likuena will kick-off their COSAFA Cup campaign with a quarterfinal tie against Swaziland on June 3 at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Lesotho Squad:
Goalkeepers: Likano Mphuthi (LDF), Sam Ketsekile (LCS), Monaheng Ramalefane (Matlama)

Defenders: Nkau Lerotholi (LMPS), Basia Makepe (LMPS), Bokang Sello (Lioli), Mafa Moremoholo (Lioli), Kopano Tseka (Lioli)

Midfielders: Tshwarelo Bereng (free agent), Hlompho Kalake (Bantu), Mabuti Potloane (Matlama), Kefuoe Mahula (Matlama), Mosiuoa Boseka (LCS), Lebajoa Mosehlenyane (Matlama), Tumelo Khutlang (Lioli), Litšepe Marabe (Bantu), Jane Thaba-Ntšo (Matlama), Luciano Matsoso (Oskar Przysucha, Poland), Lehlohonolo Fothoane (Bantu), Tšepo Toloane (LDF)

Strikers: Motebang Sera (Matlama), Nkoto Masoabi (Kick4Life)

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

COSAFA Cup Preview – A quick guide to the 2018 COSAFA Cup teams

Lesotho will be one of 14 nations gunning for COSAFA Cup glory

All 14 member nations of COSAFA will compete at the 2018 COSAFA Cup in South Africa’s Limpopo province from May 27 to June 9. It will be the first time all members of COSAFA take part in the regional showpiece.

Zimbabwe will return as defending champions and will again be among the favourites to lift the trophy.

Here is a quick guide to the teams that will take part in this year’s tournament.

All-time record:
P          W        D         L         GF      GA
40        9          12        19        38        54
Lesotho made the semi-finals last year where they were ousted in a thrilling 4-3 defeat to eventual champions Zimbabwe. Likuena were also runners-up to Zimbabwe in the 2000 edition of the southern African championship and have always been a difficult opponent.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
40        16        13        11        39        34
Angola are three-time winners of the COSAFA Cup but have not tasted success since 2004. In recent years they have opted to bring very young squads to the tournament as they use it to blood fresh talent for the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations Cup qualifiers. They have qualified for the World Cup once before, in 2006, with their victory in the 2004 COSAFA Cup going some way to shaping that team.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
35        6          13        16        24        40
Botswana has been finalists as recently as 2016, where they lost 3-2 to South Africa’s Olympics-bound squad, but disappointed last year when they were eliminated by the same opposition in the Plate semi-finals. They also made the semi-finals in 2007, losing once again to the South Africans. The side is coached by veteran tactician David Bright.

Comoros Islands
P          W        D         L         GF      GA
6          1          1          5          2          8
Comoros Islands return for their first COSAFA Cup since 2009 and for what will be only their third tournament over all. Their lone previous victory came against the Seychelles nine years ago, while they failed to score in any of their five other matches. The side is vastly improved since then though, as they have shown in recent continental qualifiers.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
28        12        6          10        34        30
Madagascar were ousted in the first round in 2017 despite taking seven points from their nine available, undone on goal-difference by eventual winners Zimbabwe. Their recent form has been excellent, with just two defeats in their last 12 COSAFA Cup matches, proving they will be no pushovers this year.
The 2018 COSAFA Cup will get underway on May 27...
P          W        D         L         GF      GA
43        12        12        19        40        54
Malawi have not perhaps lived up to their rich potential in recent times and are scoreless in their last four COSAFA Cup matches. They picked up just two points in 2017 and will hope for much better this time round under Belgian coach Ronny Van Geneugden. Malawi have been runners-up in two COSAFA Cup competitions, reaching the final for the first time in 2002 and then making the decider again the following year.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
29        6          5          18        21        46
Mauritius have perhaps not performed how they might have hoped in recent tournaments, and last year bowed out in the first round with two points. They caused arguably the biggest upset in COSAFA Cup history in 2004 when they beat South Africa, who had a full-strength team headed to the African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia, in the first round in Curepipe. But Club M are still seeking to get past the quarterfinal stage of the Southern African championship.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
39        13        8          18        40        55
Mozambique suffered to surprise, heavy defeats last year to Zimbabwe (0-4) and Madagascar (1-4) and will be hoping for much better this time round. They are led by flamboyant coach Abel Xavier, in his third COSAFA Cup tournament. Mozambique were semi-finalists in the 2004 and 2008 COSAFA Cup tournaments, and then went one better in 2015 when they lost 2-0 in the final to Namibia.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
47        17        16        14        62        50
Namibia were COSAFA Cup winners in 2015, won the Plate competition in 2016 and reached the final of the Plate again last year before losing to South Africa. Their trilling run to the major trophy three years ago was a huge personal triumph for coach Ricardo Mannetti, who remains in charge. They also made the final in 1999, but narrowly lost to Angola in extra-time in the second leg in Windhoek.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
22        1          3          18        14        51
Seychelles have just a single victory in 22 COSAFA Cup games, but that was a handsome 7-0 success over Mauritius in 2008 that remains the largest ever winning margin in the history of the tournament. Since they have battled, managing to score in only two of their previous 12 games and conceding 32 goals in that time.

South Africa
P          W        D         L         GF      GA
41        22        12        7          54        24
Four-time winners South Africa last tasted COSAFA Cup success in 2016, but have disappointed in recent tournaments, going out at the quarterfinal stage in two of the last three. South Africa are one of only two COSAFA member countries to have won the African Nations Cup title, doing so on home soil at their first attempt in 1996. Zambia joined them with their 2012 success.
The final will be on June 9...
P          W        D         L         GF      GA
39        14        10        15        38        47
Swaziland had a thrilling run in the 2016 COSAFA Cup when they claimed the bronze medal and have always been a difficult opponent at the tournament. They have reached the semi-finals of the COSAFA Cup on four occasions, proving their potential for upset results, but have yet to make that major leap into a final.

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
51        27        17        8          76        35
Zambia are four-time winners of the COSAFA Cup but have been to nine finals in all, including last year when they were beaten 3-1 by Zimbabwe. Their previous title was in 2013 on home soil and they remain a real power of the region. Zambia won both first two editions of the COSAFA Cup in 1997 and 1998, but it took until 2006 for them to claim their third regional title. 

P          W        D         L         GF      GA
54        36        11        7          98        39
Zimbabwe are the most successful nation in the history of the COSAFA Cup, winning their fifth title in 2017. They have played the most matches, managed the most wins and scored the most goals to cement their place on the top of the pile. They have suffered disappointment too though with three runner-up finishes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Lesotho versus Swaziland COSAFA Cup quarterfinal set for June 3

Likuena will face Swaziland in the last eight of the COSAFA Cup... a win
would book a date against Zambia or Namibia in the semis...

Lesotho will face Swaziland in the quarterfinals of the 2018 COSAFA Cup and the tie will be played on June 3 at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa.

Kick-off will be at 17:00.

Likuena and Swaziland are both amongst the tournament’s six top ranked nations and, as a result, have avoided the group stage.

If Likuena progress past Sihlangu they will face Zambia or Namibia in the semi-finals.

The 2018 COSAFA Cup, which will be staged in South Africa’s Limpopo province from May 27 to June 9, will be the first in history in which all 14 member nations of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) will take part in the regional showpiece.

This year’s event is also the 18th edition since the first tournament in 1997.

Timothy Shongwe, COSAFA Executive Committee – Competitions, expressed delight that all member nations are competing in this year’s tournament.

In recent years COSAFA has invited a guest nation to complete the 14-team competition field. Last year it was east African country Tanzania.

“We are delighted that all of our members will take the opportunity to compete at the COSAFA Cup, which is not only a celebration of excellence in Southern African football, but also gives players, coaches and referees the chance to hone their skills in the international environment,” Shongwe said.

For Lesotho the 2018 COSAFA Cup represents another chance to finally win an international trophy.

Likuena coach Moses Maliehe acknowledged the draw could have been worse – with the side having avoided big guns Zambia, South Africa and defending champions Zimbabwe in the quarterfinals – but he insisted Likuena would not overlook Swaziland as they go in search of their first-ever international title.

Swaziland is ranked 131st in the world by FIFA while Lesotho is 149th.

“It is a good draw because it is fair, but you cannot underestimate Swaziland,” Maliehe said. “They are a very good team and even on the FIFA ranking they are above us.”

Recent Lesotho v Swaziland head-to-head
20 May 2015
Lesotho 0-2 Swaziland
09 Mar 2014
Lesotho 0-0 Swaziland
International Friendly
07 Mar 2014
Lesotho 0-1 Swaziland
International Friendly
11 Jul 2013
Lesotho 2-0 Swaziland
12 Nov 2012
Swaziland 1-2 Lesotho
International Friendly
14 Oct 2012
Lesotho 0-1 Swaziland
International Friendly
12 Oct 2012
Lesotho 2-1 Swaziland
International Friendly

COSAFA Cup Draw:
June 2 – 15:00    M13 Zambia v Namibia (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)
June 2 – 17:30    M14 South Africa v Winner Group A (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)
June 3 – 17:00    M15 Lesotho v Swaziland (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)
June 3 – 19:30    M16 Zimbabwe v Winner Group B (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)

Plate Semi-finals
June 5 – 17:00    M17 Loser M13 v Loser M15 (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)
June 5 – 19:30    M18 Loser M14 v Loser M16 (Old Peter Mokaba Stadium)

Cup Semi-finals
June 6 – 17:00    M19 Winner M13 v Winner M15 (New Peter Mokaba Stadium)
June 6 – 19:30    M20 Winner M14 v Winner M16 (New Peter Mokaba Stadium)

Plate Final
June 8 – 17:00    M21 Winner M17 v Winner M18 (New Peter Mokaba Stadium)

Third-Place Playoff
June 8 – 19:30    M22 Loser M19 v Loser M20 (New Peter Mokaba Stadium)

Cup Final
June 9 – 15:00    M23 Winner M19 v Winner M20 (New Peter Mokaba Stadium)