Notṧi: The pressure is on Ivory Coast
Lesotho coach Leslie Notṧi says the pressure is on Ivory Coast ahead of the two countries Group H final fixture of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers scheduled for Stade Laurent Pokou on Saturday.
“Likuena”, as the Lesotho national team is affectionately known, held the star-studded Elephants to a goalless draw in the first leg match played at Dobsonville Stadium last year.
Zambia are at the summit of Group H with 12 points and have qualified alongside Ivory Coast, as the hosts of the continental showpiece.
“We are expecting a very competitive encounter against a formidable team that has been doing well in the continent, but we are coming here as Lesotho to compete,” Notṧi told a press conference.
“We are going to explore everything within the team phases, defensively, we have to be very good, try as much as we can do be creative and not to give our opponents any opportunity to outplay us, they have some of the best players in Africa playing abroad.
“We are aware that probably our first leg match played in South Africa, when we were hosting them didn’t go down well with them when we drew, and the expectation is that they will try by all means to win the game.”
Notṧi admitted that the Elephants are favourites on paper but is expecting his charges to rise to the occasion like they did in the first leg match getting a draw.
“We are here to compete, no matter the ratings, as a country of two million playing against a country that has a population of over 23 million, it says a lot, but football is a game that has to be enjoyed,” the Lesotho coach said.
“I think the game is going to be very, very tough for us and we have to be realistic about the environment, the stadium is going to be full surely as it will be the opening of this stadium and everyone will want to be there.
“The home team will want to give its supporters a win and what is important for us is to manage all the phases of the game, defensively, we have to absorb everything that will be thrown at us, which we did in the first leg when we drew,” he said.
The Likuena coach stated that they have travelled to the West African country with a youthful squad as the bigger picture is to give young members of their squad exposure looking at the upcoming schedule of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers and African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers.
“We are a team that is in a building phase and I think they have an edge but at the end of the day, we have to take everything with the game and see how it goes,” Notṧi said.
“We had to look further to prepare our team, we have brought like you are saying, a youthful team, but we are a youthful team that has big hearts, we are preparing ourselves looking at the future of our team, we are looking at CHAN and the World Cup qualifiers and this is the right time to give them exposure against one the best teams in the continent,” he said.