Lesotho, Eswatini in HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Cup warm-up

Lesotho and Eswatini warmed up for the 2023 HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Cup that will be staged in Durban from July 5-16 as they played a pair of international friendlies in Manzini this past weekend.

Lesotho claimed victory in the first of those with a 2-1 success at the Mavuso Sports Centre as coach Veselin Jelusic fielded a youthful team that included a first cap for 21-year-old goalkeeper Mosoeu Seahlolo.

Lesotho hit the front early on as Retselisitsoe Mopeli fired them in front with a goal from outside the box. Eswatini hit back 10 minutes into the second half, but the visitors were back in the league when Leluma Phosholi scored what proved to be the winner.

The second match was won 1-0 by Eswatini but there was some cost for Lesotho, who had defender Motlomelo Mkhwanazi taken to hospital with suspected fracture of the nose. He was later discharged. Eswatini captain Sabelo Ndzinisa received a red card for the incident that led to the injury.

The teams have been kept apart in the draw for the pool stages of the COSAFA Cup, with Lesotho in Group C along with Mozambique, Angola, and Mauritius.

Eswatini are in Group A with hosts South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, a tough pool with only the top team in each group and the best-placed runner-up advancing to the semifinals.

Both countries have appeared in every edition of the COSAFA Cup since it was first played in 1997 and met in the pool stages last year. Eswatini won that game 2-0, with Ndzinisa on the scoresheet, and topped the pool before being edged 10-9 on penalties by Senegal in the quarterfinals. Lesotho also shone though as they won two of their three group games.

Both are also still involved in the qualifiers for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals, though Lesotho have seen their chances of reaching the Ivory Coast ended.

They will host fellow COSAFA side Comoros in their next qualifier but cannot finish in the top two in their pool to reach the next stage.

Eswatini can but must win at home to Togo this month and then away in Burkina Faso, and hope other results go their way.

Other teams who will be in action month ahead of their appearance in the COSAFA Cup are Namibia (away vs Burundi), Malawi (away vs Ethiopia), Angola (away to Central African Republic), Zambia (home to Ivory Coast), Botswana (home to Libya), South Africa (home to Morocco) and Mozambique (away to Rwanda).