Lesotho senior menâ€™s soccer team coach Veselin Jelusic, has welcomed the Confederation of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) which has pitted his charges against eSwatini, Malawi and Mauritius in Group B for the 2022 edition of the tournament.
The draw for the sub-regional showpiece slated for July 5-17, 2022 in Durban, South Africa, took place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Tuesday.
Likuena, as the Lesotho national team is affectionately known, will look to emulate if not surpass their performance of the 2016 edition of the COSAFA Cup in Namibia, where they defeated both Mauritius and Malawi 3-0 and 1-0 respectively.
The Mountain Kingdomâ€™s side won all their three matches finishing on top of their group with nine points where star forward, Jane Thabantá¹§o, scored in the 34th second in the win over Mauritius to register the fastest goal in the history of the COSAFA Cup.
â€œWe have equal respect for all the teams that will be playing at this competition and in our group. We expect an interesting tournament, and we will possibly include new faces of young players in our team,â€ Jelusic said.
The Serbian born coach, who has had an impressive start to his tenure in charge of Lesotho, is adamant the COSAFA tournament will be a good platform for his players to attract the attention of international scouts with some having already impressed in the recent goalless draw against Ivory Coast during the group stages African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers first leg home clash played at the Dobsonville Stadium in Johannesburg South Africa.
Likuena currently hosts its home games on foreign soil after the suspension of Setsoto Stadium as a venue worthy of hosting any games recognised by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA)after governmentâ€™s failure to maintain the countryâ€™s lone international stadium.
â€œOf course, one of our ideas is to see these players getting chances to play in the premier league in South Africa. It will help us when we play against strong national teams and letâ€™s hope these things will happen in the future.
â€œYes, the COSAFA Cup is another opportunity for our players to show their value… It will be a chance for them to come to strong clubs and play professional football,â€ he said.
Lesotho has never won the COSAFA Cup, but played in the final of 2000 where it lost by a 0-6 on-aggregate score to Zimbabwe.
Since then, it has only managed a semi-finals finish in the three consecutive editions of the tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2019 but narrowly lost on each occasion. The first two ended in defeat to Zimbabwe (3-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw), and 1-2 to Botswana in 2019.
Meanwhile, the coach launched training in preparation for the contest and announced a 28-man provisional squad for the COSAFA Cup.
Likuena Provisional squad
*Goalkeepers: Tankiso Chaba (LCS), Sekhoane Moerane (LMPS), Monaheng Ramalefane (Matlama).
Defenders: Tlotliso Mapola (Kick4life), Rethabile Senkoto (Lifofane), Shali Lekhotla (Matlama), Rethabile Mokokoane (Matlama), Lehlohonolo Lenka (LCS), Thabang Malane (LCS), Tsâ€™iame Ramabele (LDF), Basia Makepe (LMPS), Kopano Tseka (LCS), Motlomelo Mkhwanazi (Bantu)
Midfielders: Lehlohonolo Matsau (LDF), Lehlohonolo Fothoane (Bantu), Lisema Lebokollane (Matlama), Tsâ€™epo Toloane, Thabo Mafatle (Lijabatho), Neo Mokhachane (Bantu), Ts’epang Sefali (Bantu), Letlatsa Moshoeshoe (LDF), Tumelo Makha (TTM-SA).
Strikers: Lemohang Lints’a (LUFC), Katleho Makateng (LDF), Jane Thabants’o (Matlama), Rets’elisitsoe Mopeli (LMPS), Motebang Sera (Golden Arrows-SA).