MASERU – Likuena have not organised any international friendly match ahead of their crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Uganda next month. The national squad faces Uganda in two respective Afcon ties scheduled for October 10 away from home and on October 13 at home.
The team head coach Moses Maliehe said there is no country available now to play a friendly with them before their meetings with Uganda. “We would like to play as many friendly matches as we can but there is no country that is available to play against us now,” Maliehe said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday. “Of late what is happening is that national teams prefer to play only during the Fifa calendar.”
Maliehe also cited another reason for unavailable national sides for international friendlies outside the Fifa calendar as the national top-flight leagues which kicked off last month. As a result, he said they would be forced to play against local and foreign clubs only and not national sides.
“But we will play friendly matches against local teams and we will also see if it would be possible to challenge South African side, Free State Stars,” Maliehe said. He was however, quick to add that the good thing about his team is that it used the recent Cosafa Cup as part of its preparation for the Afcon qualifiers. He said as a result he is confident that his charges would not have a problem to deal with combinations.
Uganda top Group L of the Afcon qualifies after collecting four points from two matches. Likuena are on second position after garnering two points from the same number of games. But Maliehe, who is confident in his charges and is not intimidated by Uganda, is adamant that for the first time in history the national squad will make it through to the Afcon tournament.
Likuena’s chances of qualifying have been increased by the fact that the top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2019 Afcon Tournament to be held in Cameroon, unlike in the past when only the group winners made it through the prestigious continental competition. “Our group is within reach for us to qualify for the upcoming Afcon competition,” Maliehe said, adding all contestants in that group are not too tough for them to match.
He said they only need to beat Uganda in the two upcoming fixtures in order for them to be comfortable in their campaign to qualify. “We face the number one country in our group and if we manage to overcome them, we will be the leaders of the group,” he also said. Behind Likuena in Group L are Tanzania with equal points (two) and Cape Verde with one point.
This was after Likuena held Tanzania to a 1-1 draw away in June last year before they drew 1-1 with Cape Verde at Setsoto Stadium on September 9. Before the Likuena match, Cape Verde lost 1-0 to Uganda in their opening match of the tournament in June last year. On September 8, Tanzania held Uganda to a goalless draw.
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