Maliehe hopeful of positive Afcon showing

NTHAKO MAJORO

MASERU – Likuena head coach Moses Maliehe is confident his charges’ chances of qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations are within the reach. Maliehe said this ahead of the national squad’s Afcon qualifying match against Cape Verde at home on September 9.

Likuena have never qualified for the Afcon tournament before and Maliehe says his team’s chances have amplified now that the top two teams from each group will qualify unlike in the past when only group winners made it through to the competition. Likuena are in Group L and are pitted against Tanzania, Uganda as well as Cape Verde.

The Cape Verde encounter will be Likuena’ second Afcon qualifying tie after they drew 1-1 with Tanzania away on June 10 last year. “It is obvious that we need to win because we will be playing at home, after all we have to qualify for the Afcon tournament,” said Maliehe in an interview with Public Eye on Monday.

He added: “And of course it is within reach for us to qualify for the 2019 Afcon tournament since the top two teams from each group qualify now unlike in the past when only group winners qualified for the competition.” Maliehe was quick to show that they expected good results based on the quality of players on his team, though he admitted that making it through would not be a walk in the park.

“We have six players who are based outside the country and who are good enough to help the team to acquire the intended results. “But the group we are featured in is not an easy one at all. We play against Uganda, Tanzania and Cape Verde which are all tough teams. But we also have a team of our own to be reckoned with,” Maliehe said.

Likuena have just put up an impressive performance at this year’s Cosafa tournament held in Polokwane, South Africa three months ago when they won bronze after finishing the competition on third position.That saw the team’s three players being contracted to some South African clubs. Two of them, Tumelo Makhopo Khutlang and Lucian Matsoso signed with the Absa premiership side, Black Leopards, while Masoabi Nkoto joined National First Division outfit, Real Kings.

Maliehe said they used the Cosafa Cup as part of their preparation for the Afcon qualifiers, adding there would as a result not be much changes on the squad he used in Polokwane. Apart from Masoabi, Khutlang and Matsoto other foreign based players to form Maliehe’s squad for the Cape Verde match include Tswarelo Bereng and Tšoteho Jane.

Bereng, who is the former Absa Premier League player with Chippa United is currently with SA National First Division side Super Eagles. Jane who used to play his professional football in America with Richmond Kickers Soccer Club, is currently plying trade in the Cambodian League for Phnom Penh Crown.

“Jane plays for one of the best teams in Cambodia, and the good about the standard of football in the Cambodian League is that it is comparatively better than the Americans’,” Maliehe said. Jane played for Likuena while he was still with Richmond Kickers and his performance was quite impressive.

Maliehe said Bereng, who was part of the Likuena squad that was at the Cosafa Cup in SA was not featured in any of the matches played, confirming that this time around, the player will be available for selection. “Bereng was not featured in any of the matches because at the time he was nursing an injury,” he said.

Likuena are in fourth week of their preparation for the Cape Verde match. Maliehe said for the past three weeks, their focus was on physical strength. Cape Verde lost 1-0 to Uganda in their opening game in the qualifiers in June last year, and that saw the latter lying on pole position in Group L. Cape Verde therefore are tailing the group while Likuena are sitting on second spot with Tanzania on third.

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