Lesotho are set to be once again led by coach Bob Mafoso at the 2019 COSAFA Under-20 Championships as he seeks to improve on their showing 12 months ago.
Lesotho took just a single point from their three games in 2018, managing a 1-1 draw with eventual bronze medalists Angola, before they lost to Zimbabwe (0-4) and Botswana (0-1) to finish bottom of their pool.But they will return to the tournament this year, to be staged in Lusaka from December 4-14, with renewed hope and having gained the experience of their previous visit.
Lesotho reached the final in 2017, where they narrowly lost to South Africa, but arrived in Ndola last year with virtually a completely new side and Mafoso was candid in his assessment of how they went.
“Let me first take the blame as a coach, maybe the preparations were not good,” he said at the time. “I mean, if you perform like this then it means you did not prepare well. We were only able to retain about four or five players, so it will be unfair to say the same team played in the final because it was a completely a new team.
“The speed of play is (also) what our team struggled with. We tried to play on transition in some games but we were still some paces behind. I think this is what we have learned that football is an intensity sport instead of endurance.
“We run for 90 minutes in all the games and we did not have cramps but still did not achieve anything, we still lost games when we could run for 90 minutes. It’s important that we go home and improve from a young level on the speed of play.”
Lesotho’s Under-20 side have in the somewhat recent past been star performers in the COSAFA region having qualified for the African Youth Championships in 2011, just their second ever appearance at the tournament.
And they did not disgrace themselves at the continental showpiece event in South Africa either, claiming a draw against eventual semifinalists Mali and losing narrowly to South Africa and Egypt.
Lesotho narrowly missed out on the knockout stages in the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships after two wins and a loss in the pool phase meant they finished second in their group.But they did much better in 2017, topping Group C and beating East African guest nation Uganda in the semifinals, before narrowly going down 2-1 to South Africa in the decider.
Lesotho have also made the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships before, in 2005, when they lost 1-0 to Madagascar.