MASERU – Lesotho senior national team Likuena intensify preparations for the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers with friendlies against Botswana’s Zebras; one today and the other on Sunday.
Both friendly games take place in Botswana with Likuena caretaker coach Leslie Notsi announcing his 19-man squad on Tuesday this week.
Likuena face South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in two-leg CHAN qualifiers at home next week Sunday and away in the following week, while Zebras are also preparing for CHAN qualifiers against Zambia’s Chipolopolo.
Zebras reached the final of this year’s COSAFA Cup in Durban, South Africa at the expense of Bafana Bafana and Likuena, among others.
They beat Bafana Bafana 5-4 on penalty shoot-outs after coming back twice in a 2-2 draw in the quarter-finals before beating Likuena 2-1 in the semi-finals.
But Zebras lost 1-0 to Chipolopolo in the final.
Notsi, who only joined Likuena as caretaker coach last Wednesday, replacing the team’s ailing permanent head coach Moses Maliehe, said most of the players in the squad are those who were already part of the team before his inclusion.
“Most of the players are those who were already there before and given the pressure of the Basotho nation who want nothing but a win, I had to make some changes when I arrived,” Notsi said at a press briefing on Tuesday.
“So, we took experience because we want to make sure that the team is suitable for the CHAN Tournament while also building a new team.”
Notsi said he’s going to give every player in the team an opportunity to prove themselves in Botswana and that after those two Zebras friendlies they would then assess every player’s performance.
He, however, further noted: “I would say if they play well (in Botswana) all of them will remain in the squad to play against Bafana Bafana. I don’t think there will be that many changes.”
Likuena began preparations for the CHAN qualifiers four weeks under the guidance of the then appointed coach, Mpitsa Marai and James Madidilane as the assistant coach before Maliehe was given back the team until he was replaced by Notsi last week because of poor health.
Notsi is being assisted by both Marai and Madidilane, after Lesotho Football Association made two late changes on the post of head coach.
He said even though he joined Likuena very late, he has confidence in both Marai and Madidilane whose football pedigree he said is clear for everyone to see.
“We are very lucky to have someone like James Madidilane who has a lot of insight into South African football and that is going to help us a lot.
“You will also agree with me that since he arrived in the country (as Bantu coach three years ago) our football standard has improved.
“Likewise, Marai is also one of the good coaches in the country and his record as coach with LCS is there for everyone to see.”
Notsi further said: “It shows I have been lucky within the short time I have with the team.”
He is also confident that the team is going to do well given the competitiveness of the local top-flight league and Likuena’s performance in the COSAFA Cup.
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