Moment of truth beckons for Likuena

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MASERU — Lesotho’s national football team, Likuena, will take on Burundi in a blood and thunder 2014 World Cup preliminary qualifier at Setsoto Stadium tomorrow night.

The match kicks off at 8pm and it will be the culmination of months of preparation for Leslie Notši’s side. The second leg will be played in Burundi next Wednesday.

Tomorrow’s match marks the official return of Likuena after the side was disbanded in February last year. The prize is a mouth-watering one — a chance to be in the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers against African football giants Ghana, Zambia and Sudan. Speaking to the Lesotho Times yesterday, Notši said the spirits were high in the Likuena camp. “The spirit is high in the team and when the foreign-based players arrived there was an ever bigger lift in the players,” he said. The bulk of Likuena’s foreign players arrived on Monday while Litšepe Marabe and Thapelo Tale were  due to arrive in the country yesterday.

Lesotho will face a determined Burundi side which arrived in the country yesterday. Burundi are 140th on the Fifa rankings and have been one of the steadily improving countries in African football over the years.

Their most recognisable player possibly is defender Valery Nahayo who was until recently with South African giants Kaizer Chiefs. Nahayo is now in Belgium with KAA Gent. Besides him, the visitors also have a number of players plying their trade in Europe in the mould of Dugary Ndabashinze (Genk), Kassim Bizimana (VV Sneek), Saidi Ntibazonkiza (Cracovia), Omar Mussa (KFCO Wilrijk) and Musaba Selemani (RFC Liege).

Burundi finished third in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group behind the Ivory Coast and Rwanda.

As for Likuena their last victory in a competitive international match came way back in March 2007, a 3-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier win over Niger at Setsoto Stadium.

However, Likuena will be banking on the atmosphere inside the Setsoto Stadium to pull them through. It should be something of a special occasion being an evening game. A packed house for the game is also expected.

Home support was crucial to the qualification of the Makoanyane XI for the Caf African Youth Championships earlier this year. The Lesotho Football Association (Lefa) said the game will also be used to remember former Lefa president, Thabo Makakole, who died in a road accident on November 11, 2004. Matlama’s impressive 2-1 win over SuperSport United in the Champions League in January was another sign of Lesotho’s potential strength at home.

Notši said there were no injury concerns for his players. The only slight concern was on Botswana-based Bushy Moletsane. The Flamengo Santos star needed treatment on his ankle by Likuena’s medical staff earlier this week.

“Bushy has a minor ankle problem. Our medical team has been working on this. Today he was able to train with the team,” Notši said yesterday. The away goals rule will be in effect so it’s also vital forLesotho to keep a clean sheet.

Lesotho have had a good defensive record under Notši with the only blip being a 3-0 loss to the Democratic Republic of Congo in a friendly on Sunday in Pretoria.

“It was good that we played them, they are of a higher standard than the games we played recently. They gave us a chance to test ourselves and we believe that their style is similar to that of Burundi.

“There were spells where we were dictating (the pace of the game) and I believe if we had our full strength squad we could have got something from the game,” Notši said.

Likuena will have their full-strength side tomorrow evening and history awaits them.

Key facts

Foreign-based players will add experience and composure to a promising side

Patience will need to be the name of the game from the team and supporters. Lesotho have to try to forge an advantage but it’s crucial to keep it tight

Home support and a full Setsoto Stadium can carry Lesotho through

Burundi facts

 Ranked 140th in Fifa world rankings

 Finished third in the 2013 Afcon qualifying group H

World Cup qualifying draw

Group A: South Africa, Botswana, Central African Republic, Somalia or Ethiopia

Group B: Tunisia, Cape Verde Islands, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea or Madagascar

Group C: Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Gambia, Chad or Tanzania

Group D: Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Lesotho or Burundi

Group E: Burkina Faso, Gabon, Niger, Sao Tome e Principe or Congo

Group F: Nigeria, Malawi, Seychelles or Kenya, Djibouti or Namibia

Group G: Egypt, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Comoros or Mozambique

Group H: Algeria, Mali, Benin, Eritrea or Rwanda

Group I: Cameroon, Libya, Guinea-Bissau or Togo, Swaziland or DR Congo

Group J: Senegal, Uganda, Angola, Liberia

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