The South African national U-23 squad, minus a host of overseas-based players, held the Lesotho senior national team to a 1-1 draw in practice match staged at the University of Pretoria’s High-Performance Centre on Monday afternoon.
The match formed part of South Africa’s preparations for qualification to the Tokyo Olympics as they come up against Angola in the first leg of the tie in Luanda while the second leg match is scheduled for the Milpark Stadium on March 26.
For Lesotho, nobody is actually giving them a chance of qualifying for the biennial African jamboree in Egypt later this year, but who can prevent Likoena of Lesotho from daring to dream as they clash with Cape Verde in Praia on Sunday.
Lying third in their group that has been dominated by the Ugandan Crances that have already qualified without conceding a goal where Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango has been outstanding, Lesotho have an outside chance to qualify.
It is for this reasons that Likoena, who have never qualified for the African nations Cup tournament, have been camping in South Africa in preparation for this make-or-break tie against the Cape Verdeans in the hope of causing an upset.
Of course, they would also be keeping their fingers crossed that Uganda continue on their fine form and derail Tanzania in the other group match, a result that could work in their favor.
However, Likoena failed to properly defend their lines from a set-piece and were cruelly punished by Athenkosi Dlala as David Notoane’s U-23 side flexed their muscles against their senior opponents.
But Lesotho showed guts, grit and determination as they clawed their way back from Dlala’s goal to draw level early in the second half but could not find a breakthrough to beat the junior Bafana Bafana.
“Our overseas-based players have not yet arrived in camp,” said Notoane. Only Latvia based Kabelo Seriba had arrived from a contingent of almost six players selected.
“The game gave us a perfect idea to assess and measure where we are and who raised their hands to be in the starting eleven,” added Notoane.
“But I guess we will intensify our preparations when the rest of the overseas-based players arrive on Tuesday. We will depart for Luanda on Wednesday and play them on Friday.”
Notoane did not want to fuss about highly regarded Crystal Palace’s center-back Nikola Tavares who is also wanted to Croatia as he is confident that once his documents have been processed, the player will commit to South Africa.
P W D L G A PTS
Uganda 5 4 0 1 7 0 13
Tanzania 5 1 2 2 3 5 5
Lesotho 5 1 2 2 3 7 5
Cape Verde 5 1 3 1 4 5 4