MASERU – The Lesotho senior national soccer team, Likuena, will play some friendly matches before their campaign in the continental group stages in the tough bracket against giants such as the Ivory Coast. Likuena will be visiting Ethiopia in an effort to intensify their preparations for the upcoming 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group H qualifying matches against Comoros and Ivory Coast next month respectively.
The Lesotho team will start its AFCON qualifying campaign away to Comoros on June 3 before hosting Ivory Coast in South Africa six days later (June 9). Likuena, who are also pitted against Zambia in Group H of the AFCON qualifiers, had started preparing for the Comoros and Ivory Coast matches from last month. Likuena coach, Veselin Jelusic, said the Ethiopia friendly would help them get a better assessment ahead of the two upcoming AFCON qualifying matches.
“We could be quite satisfied with one part of the preparation that we had here in our field at Bambatha regarding some aspects of the game, like fitness of players and some tactical issues,” said Jelusic at a press briefing at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena on Tuesday this week. “But it’s only after this friendly game which we are going to play against Ethiopia that we will have a better view and vision about how we are going to play against Comoros and Ivory Coast.”
Jelusic further said: “We are very happy and satisfied with the commitment, behaviour and discipline of our players, and we believe that we will perform well in these games (Comoros and Ivory Coast) despite that we know how tough the opponents we are facing in this competition are.”
Jelusic called up a 23-man squad most of whom are local-based players, with only five of them being foreign-based, namely: Motebang Sera from the DSTV Premiership side Golden Arrows (in South Africa); Nkoto Masoabi from the Liga 2 side Merani Martvili (in Georgia); Lesia Thetsane from the Major Soccer League side Kansas City Comets (in the United States); Tumelo Makha from the GladAfrica Championship side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (in South Africa); and, Tshwarelo Bereng from the ABC Motsepe League campaigners Black Eagles (in South Africa).
Makha is so far the only foreign-based player who joined Likuena’s camp two weeks ago, while Thetsane was expected to arrive from the US on Tuesday this week. “Lesia is coming today from the United States, Bereng is waiting for us in South Africa while Sera will come after his last game for his club on the 28 (May) and Masoabi will join us in Addis Ababa on the 29 (May).
“We would like to see our foreign-based players in this game because we didn’t have the opportunity to see them in the team during our preparations and it is only after this game that we will have a better idea about the level of preparation and what they can offer for our team,” Jelusic said. Likuena coach said they wanted to give all of these foreign-based players a chance before the Comoros and Ivory Coast matches, saying local-based players were all in good shape.
“We would like to give them a chance and after that we will have a better idea of how they can contribute to the team after which we will be able to make a decision about which team will start the game against Comoros. “But our home-based players are in good competitive shape and I am sure that for this game we can make one quite competitive team that will give a very good game against our opponents.”
Likuena squad for the Ethiopia match;