It’s now or never!
Likuena battle Kenya in Nairobi knowing a place in the football history books is at stake
Likuena enter the 30 000-seater Nyayo battlefield in Nairobi this afternoon knowing only 90 minutes separate them from what could be one of Lesotho’s crowing football moments.
The national team, proudly known as Likuena, beat the Harambee Stars of Kenya 1-0 in the first leg, second round tie of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier and need at-least a draw today to advance to the group and final stage of the qualification campaign.
Tšepo Seturumane’s header against the run of play saw Likuena beat the more-fancied East Africans in the first leg encounter played at Setsoto, sparking wild celebrations among the fans whose belief in this team’s capacity to reach the country’s first-ever Afcon finals continues to increase with each passing match.
Likuena outslugged Liberia 2-1 to reach the second round of the qualifiers, and that win against such a respected continental football powerhouse — and the 1-0 victory over Kenya — brought such optimism among local football fans, who are now looking forward to yet another sensational result at Nyayo Stadium today.
Speaking with the Sunday Express from Nairobi on Friday, Likuena manager, Khiba Mohoanyane, said the team was in good shape and that the players were ready to fight and make the nation proud.
Mohoanyane further said the players’ strike, which saw them refuse to leave Maseru last Wednesday due to outstanding bonuses of M10 000 each, was now water under the bridge.
The team only left for Nairobi the following day after the issue had been resolved.
“The team is in good shape and the players are ready to fight. The only challenge here is that the hotels are not good at all,” Mohoanyane said.
According to Mohoanyane, while the allowances saga had come at the wrong time for a team that was in such good spirits, he believed it would not affect the team’s performance on the first of play.
“The allowances issue was an unfortunate incident, but so far, the players have had three training sessions here, and they appear in very high spirits.
“What happened before we left Maseru regarding the players’ refusal to leave because of their allowances, was an eye-opener for everybody.
“Hopefully, that incident will not affect the players’ performance when they take to the pitch on Sunday,” said Mohoanyane.
Meanwhile, in an interview before the team left for Kenya on Thursday, interim coach, Seephephe ‘Mochini’ Matete said the players would need to be at their best to beat the Kenyans in their own backyard.
According to Matete, today’s clash would be one of the biggest matches of his coaching career, and believes the players would have to “really fight” if they are to prevail over the home side that is expected to have a huge, vociferous crowd behind it.
Matete is also aware Kenya would be a completely different and very offensive side in the reverse tie after being embarrassed in the first-leg match by a side considered minnows in international football.
“This is a very crucial match and it is not only important to me as the coach of the team, but also the players, the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) and the country as a whole,” Matete said.
“The players are aware that we have a very important task ahead of us and they are focused on doing the country proud, which I am confident is possible despite the heavy odds we face.”
Matete further revealed he would not change his “usual” approach to games despite playing away from home.
According to Matete, adopting a defensive approach in Nairobi today would be a very big mistake.
“It is important that we stick to our usual game-plan because changing it at this stage could prove to be our downfall.
“However, we must be more cautious since we will be playing away from home, and not necessarily open ourselves to attack by failing to maintain our usual discipline,” said Matete.
“I think we stand a good chance of qualifying for a very easy group that consists of Angola, Burkina Faso and Gabon, so the aim is to utilise this opportunity because it does not come that often.
“I can tell you that we will be putting in everything we have got, to make sure that we reach the group stage of the competition.
“Luckily, we do not have any injuries in our squad; all the players are focused on doing the country proud by beating Kenya, after doing the same to Liberia in the first round of the qualifiers, which, as you know, is why we find ourselves at this stage of the qualifiers.”
On his part, national team captain, Moitheri Ntobo, said his teammates wanted to do the country proud by reaching the group stage of African football’s most prestigious tournament.
“This is a match of our lives and it would be a dream come true for us to play in the group stage and we will do all it takes to get there,” Ntobo said.
Goalkeepers: Mohau Kuenane, Kananelo Makhooane
Defenders: Moitheri Ntobo (captain), Thabo Masualle, Jerry Kamele, Basia Makepe, Nkau Lerotholi, Tšoanelo Koetle, Sepiriti Malefane, Thapelo Mokhehle.
Midfielders: Bushy Moletsane, Motlalepula Mofolo, Ralekoti Mokhahlane, Makara Ntaitsane, Jane Tšotleho, Mabuti Potloane, Phafa Tšosane, Lekhanya Lekhanya.
Strikers: Thapelo Tale, Tšepo Lekhooana, Tšepo Seturumane.
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