Makoanyane XI face Angola in do-or-die clash
National under-20 team coach Moses Maliehe insists the battle is far from over as his charges look to defend their 3-1 advantage going into this afternoon’s African Youth Championship second leg of the second round qualifier against Angola.
The team, popularly known as Makoanyane XI, beat the Angolans in the first leg a fortnight ago at Setsoto stadium and today face the same foes in Luanda.
After beating Swaziland 4-2 in the first round of the biennial qualifiers whose finals are set for Senegal next year, Maliehe says he would not want to disappoint the nation by faltering at this stage of the campaign.
However, Maliehe on Wednesday made it clear the Palanquinhas — as the Angola under-20 football team is affectionately known — are a dangerous side that could easily send Lesotho’s dream of making it to Senegal, up in smoke.
“We might have an advantage as we speak, because they are trailing by two goals, but that does not mean the battle is over. There is still a long way to go, especially as we will be in their backyard in the return leg.
“There is going to be war out there in the return fixture, but we have prepared the boys psychologically for the hostile conditions they will surely meet with in Angola. We would want to make sure they are completely focused on the match and are not distracted by anything,” Maliehe said.
The game-plan, the coach further said, would be to keep the Angolans on the back-foot from the word go.
“The Angolans will be a little frustrated because of the two-goal deficit, so we have to press them from the first blow of the whistle to avoid giving them any breathing space. They must never be comfortable because they are dangerous when in possession of the ball, and moving it around.”
Maliehe added the players understand the importance of today’s match, as a win would go a long way to atone for their disappointing outing in last December’s Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) under-20 tournament that Lesotho hosted.
In the Cosafa tournament, Makoanyane XI could not get past the group stage, incurring the wrath of fans who expected to win the competition because of home-advantage.
“The players understand the importance of this match because they know they still have to pay back to the nation for their early exit in last year’s Cosafa tournament. I am confident we will be the team to advance from this fixture because the team is in very good shape.”
Meanwhile, winners of this afternoon tie face either Nigeria or Tanzania in the final qualifier of the championship.