LIKUENA ended their COSAFA 2018 campaign on a high last weekend by beating Madagascar to clinch third place at the just ended regional soccer tournament.
Coach Moses Maliehe had set a high target for his charges, predicting that they would go all the way to the final of the competition that was held in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. However, that dream went up in flames when they lost 3-1 in a penalty shootout.
Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper George Chigova continued with his penalty saving heroics in the semi-final denying Likuena two spot kicks as he had done in their previous meeting with Botswana.
That aside, I think Likuena were unfortunate on the day as they had risen to the occasion against a solid Zimbabwean side that fielded some of their seasoned players.
There were several positives for Maliehe to take forward as the team prepares for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers where they meet Cape Verde in September this year. They started the tournament well with a 1-1 draw away to Tanzania last year.
It has been rare for our team to go for three games without conceding within 90 minutes. This is one of the records that Maliehe and his charges celebrated in the competition.
It was also good to see that the two strikes in the team in Nkoto Masoabi and Motebang Sera scoring in the victories over Swaziland and Mauritius respectively. However, could have done much better.
The 2018 edition of the tournament was the third for Motebang and he exhibited maturity.
The centre-back pairing of Basia Makepe and Kopano Tseka also did well and they also deserve praises for the hard work that they put in.
It was not surprising that Makepe was among the Likuena players that attracted the attention of South African scouts.
However, this is not a reason for Likuena players to get big headed and think that they are now superstars.
Instead, the performance in Polokwane should be a motivation for to dream bigger as they head towards the continental qualifiers starting with Cape Verde.
Likuena are in a fair group together with Tanzania and Uganda.
For this is the easiest group that we have had in a long time and the team has a great chance of qualifying if they continue to improve and fight as a team.
That two teams from each group will qualify for AFCON increases our chances of making our debut qualification.
All that the players need to do is to work hard and improve their weaknesses because there is a great possibility that we can finally play in the continental tournament.
I also got to watch the second leg of the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations Women qualifying match between Lesotho and South Africa played in Bloemfontein on Sunday. It was a torturous game to watch as our team got a serious beating.
After losing at 0-1 at home, the side suffered a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Banyana Banyana.
The lesson that I hope we take away from the tournament is that we are not ready for such tournaments. We need to get more exposure form such tournaments as the COSAFA.
Women football in the country is in a rebuilding phase and needs more time before our national team can compete against the best on the continent.
Instead of hurrying Mehalalitoe into the continental tournament, I feel there is need to focus instead of skipping steps then suffer humiliation.
The fact that the team could not even register a single shot at goal in the two matches says it all that AFCON qualifiers came too early for them.