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Matete wields the axe

 

…drops nine regulars for Likuena’s final Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers

Moorosi Tsiane

Likuena interim coach, Seephephe Matete, insists the nine changes he has made to the national football team have nothing to do with “administrative politics”.

Matete announced a new-look 22-member squad on Thursday for the last Group C 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Burkina Faso and Gabon on 10 and 15 November at home and away, respectively.

Likuena, as the team is popularly known, are bottom of four-nation Group C on two points behind Gabon, Burkina Faso and Angola who have collected eight, seven and four points from four matches, respectively.

Matete’s charges have had two draws—against Gabon and Angola both at home—while losing 2-0 against Burkina Faso and 4-0 versus Angola away.

Before leaving for Angola a fortnight ago, Likuena went on strike after the Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) had refused to succumb to their demands for M5000 allowances each, and offered them M600 apiece instead. The strike led to Lioli winger Tšepo Seturumane and LCS midfielder, Ralekoti Mokhahlane, not making the trip to Luanda, and analysts have since blamed the heavy defeat on the industrial action which delayed the players’ departure by one day, and also affected their morale.

And as expected, Matete has not called-up the two players in his new squad, while also dumping veterans Tšoanelo Koetle, Thabo Masualle, Nkau Lerotholi, Bushy Moletsane, Motlalepula Mofolo, Lekhanya Lekhanya, and Tšepo Lekhooana.

Players who did not make the Angola tour who have been included in the team are Thapelo Mokhehle, Shetsane Ramoseeka, Bokang Mothoana, Salebone Lekhooa, Katleho Moleko, John Mohai, Mohau Rammoneng, Teboho Lekhooa, Jane Thaba-Ntso and Thabo Seakhoa.

“I have been saying this over and over again—that I select a team based on players’ performance and behavior on and off the pitch, so the changes I have made are based on those factors. They have nothing to do with administrative politics which I don’t even want to get into,” Matete on Friday told the Sunday Express.

The former Matlama mentor emphasised had the team played well in Angola, he would not have rung such whole-sale changes.

“The team did not play well at all against Angola, so as coaches, we thought that maybe we should get new blood into the squad, and mix the youngsters with their experienced counterparts,” he said.

According to Matete, since Likuena’s chances of qualifying for the Afcon tournament are now very slim, he was already looking at building a team for the future.

Only the group winners and runners-up qualify for the finals to be hosted from 17 January to 8 February 2015 by a country yet to be confirmed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Morocco had been expected to host the competition but has since called for its postponement due to the Ebola virus currently ravaging West Africa, forcing CAF to look for an alternative venue.

Matete explained his selection: “Our chances of qualifying are very slim so I also wanted to build a new team with young players for future competitions. These two matches will help them gain international exposure although it’s not all of them who will play. But still, they will learn something as they are in the team.

“However, this team will change depending on the circumstances and these players must always give 100 percent commitment whenever they have been given the chance. We cannot keep on playing the same team that does not produce results. ”

Meanwhile, Likuena have dropped from position 115 to 118 on the latest Fifa rankings released on Thursday.

Matete said he was disappointed by the drop as his goal was to break into the top 100 by the end of this year.

“My goal was to make it into the top 100 this year, which is why I am disappointed that we are now dropping because for the past two months, we have dropped from 105 and now we are on 118. But I also believe these losses will be a wakeup call to my players and they will begin to work hard again.”

According to Matete, Likuena are expected to report for camp on 3 November for the two Afcon fixtures.

GROUP C

P W D L GF GA Pts
Gabon 4 2 2 0 5 2 8
Burkina Faso 4 2 1 1 6 3 7
Angola 4 1 1 2 4 4 4
Lesotho 4 0 2 2 1 7 2

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