Swaziland open Cosafa campaign v Lesotho

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Lesotho and Swaziland will renew their rivalry in the Cosafa Cup when they meet in the second quarterfinal of the 2018 edition, set for Saturday at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Kick-off is at 5:30pm CAT.

The teams were both seeded ahead of the competition and granted a place in the last eight. Improving on last year’s showing and reaching the sharp end of the Cosafa Cup will be the aim for both Lesotho and Swaziland.

Likuena reached the semifinals in 2017, where they were beaten 4-3 by Zimbabwe before going on to lose the third-place playoff on penalties to Tanzania. Sihlangu exited in the quarterfinals at the hands of Zimbabwe last year, before entering the Plate competition where they were beaten 1-0 by Namibia.

The teams have been regular combatants down the years, meeting no less than 38 times according to Fifa’s database. Sihlangu have claimed 13 wins compared to 12 for Likuena, with 13 games ending in draws.

Their last clash in the Cosafa Cup was in the group stage of the 2015 edition: Swaziland won 2-0 at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, but both teams exited the tournament in the first round after Madagascar topped the standings.

Lesotho’s Polish-based attacking midfielder Luciano Matsoso admits that Swaziland will pose a tough challenge, but says his team’s dream is to return to the Cosafa final for the first time since 2000, where they ended as runners-up to Zimbabwe.

“We all know that Swaziland has done well in recent years and we will have to be at our best to beat them,” said Matoso in the build-up to the match.

“The fact that they have players of Mbabane Swallows, who have been the surprise packages of this year’s CAF Champions League also gives them the edge going into the match.

“But we are also ready to sweat for the three points because the target is to get to the final.”

Swaziland star Felix Badenhorst says his team cannot underestimate any opponent, with the Cosafa Cup’s group stage matches demonstrating that even the so-called ‘minnows’ are capable of upsets.

“It’s an open secret that all nations are improving, if the results of Cosafa Cup opening matches are anything to go by. It is a challenge for us to do even better,” said the Mbabane Swallows attacker.

“Our unexpected 1-0 win over Kenya in an international friendly match on May 25 gave us direction and confidence.”

The winners of this match will face either Zimbabwe or Botswana in the Cup semifinals on June 6, while the losers of the respective matches will face off in the Plate semifinals the day before/Supersport.