Why Likuena lost Rwanda match

…this after the famous victory over Zimbabwe


MASERU – Missing chances and poor defending were key factors in Likuena’s unexpected loss to Rwanda in the World Cup Qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Tuesday. Likuena’s unexpected 1-0 loss to Rwanda came as a surprise, especially following their notable 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe at Orlando Stadium last Friday. Football experts identified several aspects of the game that contributed to Likuena’s defeat.

Former Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) defender and LDF Ladies coach, Lengoana Nkhethoa, noted that Likuena adopted an overly defensive approach against Rwanda. “Our approach was different against Rwanda compared to our approach against Zimbabwe,” said Nkhethoa. “I don’t know if it was because we felt pressured, considering Rwanda was behind us in points at the time.”

Nkhethoa elaborated: “We defended with many players, which forced us to rely on long balls instead of our strength, which is a ball-passing game. This strategy didn’t work because most of our players are not physically robust, while Rwanda’s players are taller and better suited for aerial battles.”

He said opting for long balls did not work for Likuena, as most of their players are not physically strong. “Instead, that worked to Rwanda’s advantage because their players are tall,” he said. Nkhethoa attributed the loss to a change in the game plan, criticising Coach Leslie Notsi and his technical team for not sticking with the strategy that succeeded against Zimbabwe. “We are a team that possesses the ball and builds from the back. This approach worked against Zimbabwe because we played to our strengths,” he explained. “But to my surprise, we changed the approach against Rwanda. The game plan was totally different.”

Another local coach, Lehloenya Nkhasi, also said Likuena were let down by poor defence and missed opportunities. “I think the game was 50/50. We cannot say Rwanda dominated Lesotho, as Lesotho had many chances but missed them,” said Nkhasi. “I also think what caused Lesotho to lose against Rwanda was poor defence. Our defence did not perform well.” Nkhasi further explained: “Yes, we defended with numbers once we lost the ball, but we were not covering danger zones effectively. For example, we were not pressing the ball carrier, which led to a goal when our central defender slid in his own penalty area.”

Coach Nkhasi emphasised that sliding in the box is a major mistake for any defender.  “You do not do that as a defender. If you slide, it takes time to recover,” he said. Nkhasi continued: “In terms of play, we were inconsistent. We managed to get into the box and the final third, but unfortunately, we missed clear chances and set pieces.”

Despite the loss, Nkhasi acknowledged that Likuena performed well, considering they were one of the underdogs in the qualifiers.  “I think so far they have done well—the technical team and everyone associated with the national team,” he concluded.

“But those basic errors, which we were not expecting at this level, must come to an end. The coach needs to address these issues.” Notsi admitted that his players failed to capitalise on their chances against Rwanda.  “I think there was a lot of anxiety among some of our players, especially upfront. We had goal-scoring opportunities, but we were not clinical,” he said. “Unfortunately, we conceded a goal at a crucial time just before halftime. We knew it would be difficult because we could sense that Rwanda would step up their game in the second half, which they did.”

Notsi added: “We made some changes, and I believe they gave us more options in terms of offensive play. Our transitions were much better, and we did try to create scoring opportunities, but on the day we could not score.” Despite the loss, Notsi saw many positives in the match. “There were a lot of good things that came out of this match for us. As I said in a previous interview, before the game, we are a work in progress.”

“So, we are satisfied with how we are handling our matches in terms of performance and the way the boys conducted themselves under pressure.” Meanwhile, the Lesotho Football Association’s (LeFA) president, King’s Counsel (KC) Salemane Phafane, expressed gratitude to the Likuena players. “We are very proud of the impressive displays shown by the team in the two matches despite losing the second game to Rwanda,” reads the LeFA press statement.

“We take that as a wake-up call to come back strongly in the next assignment. Our target as the association, together with the players and technical staff, was to win both matches, but things didn’t go as planned against Rwanda.” Phafane continued: “It’s a disappointment that we must quickly put behind us and shift our focus to the next assignment.”

He also thanked Likuena supporters for their steadfast support during the matches against both Zimbabwe and Rwanda. “My hat goes off to all the members of the football fraternity who travelled to Johannesburg and Durban, respectively, to rally behind the team in the two assignments, and the prayers from Basotho at large.

“The support from our media colleagues for always being on the ground to give the nation the latest developments with the Likuena camp.” The loss to Rwanda was Likuena’s first setback since the beginning of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers last year. Likuena opened their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Nigeria’s Super Eagles, followed by a goalless draw against Benin and a 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe.