Ex-Mehalalitoe coach speaks on COSAFA performance
The main reason why the Lesotho senior women national team, Mehalalitoe, suffered back-to-back defeats at the on-going Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Women’s Championship was largely due to poor goalkeeping, poor defending and failure to deal with the high tempo of the game, among other things. This is according to former Mehalalitoe coach, Puseletso Mokhosi.
Mehalalitoe lost 7-0 and 2-0 to Zambia and Namibia, respectively, after a convincing 3-0 win over eSwatini in an opening fixture of Group B. Mehalalitoe still had a chance to proceed to the next stage of the tournament at the expense of Namibia, even after the Zambian defeat, but it was never to be.
Mokhosi, who is also the former president of the Lesotho Women Football Committee, said Mehalalitoe could not cope with the pace of the game, while they were also let down by poor goalkeeping and sloppy defending.
“In the first match against eSwatini, we watched the Lesotho which one last watched playing dating back to 2017, which had the fighting spirit, team play and the potential to win that match,” said Mokhosi. But still Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe’s win over eSwatini came very easy.
“But you could see that eSwatini’s preparation was not good. The Lesotho team was actually more prepared than the eSwatini team. “So we played well against Namibia; our build ups from back to the attacking third were good, with our wingers overlapping and making good crosses and our defenders always positioning themselves well.”
But the Zambia match was a different ball game altogether. Mokhosi said the game plan just didn’t work for the Mehalalitoe team on the day. “I think the coach (Pule Khojane)’s game plan for the Zambia match just didn’t work. “You could notice that the aim was to defend deep in order to absorb the pressure while also looking for counter-attacks, but that did not happen because of the quality of the Zambian players.”
Mokhosi said the Zambian players were very good when it came to pace. “You can talk about speed, long balls and other aspects of the game. We talk about players who can shoot from every angle.” Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe players could not deal with the tempo of the Zambia match.
“Looking at our wingers, they just didn’t have speed and we did not have midfielders who could make those attacks.” Mokhosi further said: “So you could just see that the coach’s game plan did not work, and he delayed to realise that fact.” Khojane’s game plan, Mokhosi said, could not work on the day because you could not defend against a team like Zambia.
“You would not want to defend at your own half because they are a speedy team who would force you to make many mistakes which would force you to commit many fouls in your third half because every time they caught you off guard, facing your own goals.”
Mokhosi said what also caused Mehalalitoe a huge defeat against Zambia was because the Lesotho players were not good when it came to defending dead balls. “We conceded the first corner of the match against Zambia because none of our players positioned themselves well to be able to defend the corner, and so the goalkeeper was late to save the ball.
“Apart from that, our defence could not just deal with high balls, especially our central defence because they were too short, including our full-backs. Their timing was not good.” Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe defenders found themselves wondering, not knowing what to do and who they were marking because of the pace and the movement of the Zambia players.
“But after the second half, you could see that the coach talked to them because they started to play in the opponents’ half and play as a team. “They had confidence, making several passes unlike in the first half where they found themselves wondering in every second ball.” Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe also lost to Namibia because of the same mistakes they did against Zambia.
“Our team started well, playing attacking football until we made mistakes, with the same goalkeeping department failing to save a long-range shot.” “But even after that, you could see that the fighting spirit was still there, but because they were playing attack, Namibia players were too aggressive and that saw our players starting to pick injuries.”
Mokhosi further said: “In no time in the first half, we picked up crucial injuries to our midfielders and those were the players who started attacking play for the Mehalalitoe team.” Mokhosi said that’s one of things which affected Khojane’s game against Namibia. “That’s one of things which affected the coach’s game plan because he was forced to make substitutes who just could not cope with the tempo of the game.”
Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe’s substitutes were more defensive despite coming on when the team was already 2-nil down. “What I have also realised was that our players came back to the game very demoralised in the second half. We suffered because of mental strength than physical strength.
“They were very demoralised to the extent that they didn’t even realise that we could still came back to the game since we still won free kicks in the Namibia’s third half, which we could have utilised.” But Mokhosi said Mehalalitoe could not utilise those free kicks while Namibia utilised theirs. “In all aspects, we lost because of poor goalkeeping department and high tempo of the game.”
Mehalalitoe finished on third position behind Namibia and Zambia as the Group B runners-up and winners respectively, with eSwatini sitting at the bottom of the group. Group A winners, Banyana Banyana face Namibia in the semi-finals (since the latter were the best runners-up) and Zambia face Group C winners, Tanzania, both games take place tomorrow.