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Likuena face acid test

Leslie NotsiEnock Muchinjo

HARARE — Lesotho national football team coach Leslie Notsi says his team’s opening Cosafa Senior Challenge match against hosts Zimbabwe tomorrow will be the “real test”.
Zimbabwe opened the tournament on a roll yesterday by thrashing Mauritius 3-0 at Harare’s Rufaro Stadium. 
The Warriors and Likuena, who clash at the same venue tomorrow, drew one-all in an international friendly tie in Bulawayo back in August.
A Zimbabwe side entirely made up of home-based players needed an 80th-minute equaliser from the head of defender Guthrie Zhokinyu after Likuena — the better side for most of the match — had nosed ahead from the penalty spot in the first half.
Lesotho were then under the tutelage of Serbian Zavisa Milosavljevic.
“It’s going to be a different ball game,” said Notsi, whose first game in charge of Likuena was a 5-0 humbling at the hands of Malaysia’s Under-23 side.
“Here the stakes are higher. It’s going to be a tough encounter, but we are prepared,” he said after a pre-tournament function in the Zimbabwean capital on Friday.
“Winning against the hosts will be a very good start for us.
“They are playing at home. It’s a big challenge. (But) It’s a chance for us to prove that Lesotho are a force to reckon with.
“The pressure is on Zimbabwe because they are expected to win, being the host nation. We are approaching this game with less pressure.”
Zimbabwe, Mauritius and Lesotho make up Group A of the Cosafa Senior Challenge.
Tanzania were supposed to be the fourth team in the group but they withdrew before the regional tournament started. Notsi and his charges yesterday watched Sunday Chidzambwa guide the Warriors to victory over Mauritius.
Dynamos hitman Cuthbert Malajila grabbed a double while captain Method Mwanjali scored the other goal for the hosts.
Clubs in South Africa and Europe often don’t release their players for the Cosafa tournament because it’s not recognised by world-governing body Fifa. As a result most countries field weakened sides for the 12-year-old southern African regional championship.
In contrast, Lesotho are one of the few sides who always take to the field with their strongest side.
“To us the Cosafa is a very important tournament,” Notsi said.
“That’s when each country play to be the champion of the region. It’s important to us especially now when we are building a team for the 2012 African Nations Cup and 2014 World Cup qualifiers.”

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