Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Likuena flatters to deceive


Seabata Mahao

After pulling off a heroic 1-1 draw away to Nigeria in their opening 2026 World Cup qualifier clash, senior soccer team Likuena could not repeat the same trick by settling for a goalless draw ‘at home’ to Benin in their second match of the campaign.

Although hosting Benin in neighbouring South Africa’s Moses Mabhida Stadium is hardly equivalent to playing at home, a lot was still expected from the team that had shown so much promise leading to the World Cup qualifiers under the tutelage of Leslie Makhetha Notši and Bob Mafoso.

The two interim coaches have been a breath of fresh air to the national team, which had previously looked so lost and hopeless for long periods under former Serbia-born coach, Veselin Jelusic.

Since taking over the reins earlier this year, the two coaches have vastly transformed Likuena into a formidable side that excelled all the way to the final of the COSAFA Cup where it narrowly lost 1-0 to Zambia.

In the World Cup qualifiers, Likuena is drawn in Group C alongside Nigeria, Benin, South Africa, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

Reflecting on Likuena’s performance against Benin, Notši said his players started the game slowly and therefore struggled to cope with the tempo of the game.

He was, however, content with the overall positive progression of his team despite being a small footballing nation with only two million people.

Likuena is currently ranked 153 by FIFA while Benin is ranked higher in position 93.

“We are quite satisfied in the manner in which the boys played even though we wanted to win but at the end of the day, we have to appreciate the good aspect that the game gave us,” Notši stated.

Notši said that optimism would set the tone for Likuena as they wait and prepare for their next round of matches, which will be in 2024.

Lesotho will now look forward to Zimbabwe on June 24 next year. Zimbabwe has itself not started the World Cup qualifiers convincingly, with two successive draws against Rwanda and Nigeria.

In other results from Group C, Rwanda stunned South Africa 2-0 in the second match of the qualifiers in Butare, Rwanda this week. South Africa had opened their campaign with a promising 2-1 home win over Benin.

Nigeria has also had a shaky start to their World Cup qualifier campaign. They played to a 1-all draw with Lesotho, before settling for the same score line with Zimbabwe in their second game.

The Group C results mean that Likuena is currently in position four on the log with two points, while South Africa is positioned second with three points just above the Super Eagles of Nigeria in third place.

Nigeria and Benin take the last two positions in the standings with two points each.

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