Ntobo speaks out after Angola defeat
…Likuena captain blames ‘silly mistakes’ for thrashing but still believes the national football team could qualify for their maiden Africa Cup of Nations tournament
Inspirational captain, Moitheri Ntobo, says the national team was not fully prepared “mentally” for Wednesday’s match against Angola, hence the 4-0 loss, which all-but ended their hopes for a maiden Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification.
Likuena, as the national football team is popularly known, were outplayed by the Angolans in Luanda, and conceded two goals either half of the match despite holding the same team to a goalless draw five days earlier at Setsoto stadium.
After initially refusing to travel to Angola for the match due to a fallout with the authorities over allowances, the hammering in Luanda did not come as a surprise to many neutrals.
Ntobo on Friday told the Sunday Express: “We all know the conditions that we left the country under, and I believe we were not mentally fit for the match.
“However, despite the big score-line, we did not play that badly. The fact is, we made some silly mistakes which resulted in those goals.”
After Wednesday’s loss, Likuena now anchor Group C of the 2015 Afcon with two points behind Angola who have four, while Burkina Faso are second on seven and leaders Gabon have eight.
According to Ntobo, the players never thought demanding M5000 in allowances when Lefa was offering M600, could end in such a disaster.
“As players, we never thought things could end that way. We sincerely believed the issue would be resolved amicably so we could go to the match in the right frame of mind.”
Ntobo further said the players were very disappointed after the match, adding however, that the coach was very supportive following the defeat.
“The defeat was very disappointing, but we still have a chance to fulfill our dreams of making it from this group. We need to put extra effort in our last two matches of the campaign against Burkina Faso and Gabon, to be among the two teams that automatically qualify from this group.
“This is football and anything can happen. What we simply need is to be fully focused in the remaining matches to ensure we collect the six maximum points,” said Ntobo.
“If you have noticed, gone are those days when there were the so-called small teams. No nation is guaranteed a win anymore simply because it has a rich football history. That is why we still believe we can qualify for the Nations Cup, but like I said, we need to be 100 percent focused for this to happen.”
Ntobo said going forward, the issue of players’ allowances should be resolved on time so that it does not negatively affect the team.
“Those who are responsible for the allowances should ensure the issue is resolved on time so that the players can concentrate on the game and nothing else.”
Asked if the absence of regulars Ralekoti Mokhahlane and Tšepo Setururmane—who both refused to travel to Likuena because of the allowances, and goalkeeper Mohau Kuenane who missed the tie due to a red card— could have been one of the reasons the team could not find its rhythm in Angola, Ntobo said: “Al I can say is I trust all the players that I play with as team captain.”
On his part, Likuena interim coach, Seephephe Matete said the team just lost focus and conceded easy goals.
“In a game of football, the first and last five minutes of both halves are the most important, and players need to be extremely careful during this period. However, we lost concentration and conceded three goals in those minutes.
“We conceded the first goal three minutes into the match and that gave our opponents a lot of confidence. It was one of those matches that we did not start well,” Matete said.
Matete said he did not want to comment on administration matters when asked if the allowance row could have led to the heavy defeat.
“There might have been pressure on the players after what happened before we left, but I believe the players have learned their lesson. I don’t want to comment much on the administration side, though,” said Matete.
The veteran mentor also hinted there might be some changes in his team going into the remaining two matches of the campaign next month.
“If the team is winning then I wouldn’t be changing it, but why will I keep on using the same players while they are not winning? Of course there are going to be some changes going forward.”
Latest Group C table
06/09/14: Gabon 1-0 Angola; 06/09/14: Burkina Faso 2-0 Lesotho; 10/09/14: Angola 0-3 Burkina Faso; 10/09/14: Lesotho 1-1 Gabon; 11/10/14: Gabon 2-0 Burkina Faso; 10/10/14: Lesotho 0-0 Angola; 15/10/14: Burkina Faso 1-1 Gabon; 15/10/14: Angola 4-0 Lesotho.
14-15/11/14: Lesotho v Burkina Faso; 14-15/11/14: Angola v Gabon; 19/11/14: Burkina Faso v Angola; 19/11/14: Gabon v Lesotho.