Billen’s first step of a long journey

Lesotho vs Swaziland

Venue: Maseru Stadium

Kickoff time: Friday, 6pm

Tonight, new Sihlangu Belgian coach Valere Billen will attempt to do what most before him have failed to achieve – winning away from home.It has been ages since the national squad has been active, let alone to win a game. Last night, the squad had the feel of the venue, as they conducted their last training session ahead of this evening’s encounter, which is likely to attract an impressive crowd judging by the response of most of the locals in the mountainous Kingdom on the squad’s arrival.Billen has already assured that his ‘infant battalion’ will give out 200 percent on the field. The squad is scheduled to play two games against the hosts. The last encounter is slated for Sunday, starting at 3pm.Priority, as the Belgian insisted shortly before departure on Wednesday evening, is not on winning. He wants to mould a team for the future, one that will usher in a new era in the squad’s history. Indeed, the charismatic coach has assembled a relatively young team, averaging 24 years of age. It is a good blend of youth and experience.Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko, Jerome Ntshalintshali and Vuyani ‘Mascherano’ Mazibuko are all expected to guide their less experienced teammates against the Sothos where nothing but pride will be at stake.The trio forms Billen’s nucleus. They are the core of a team that is yet to be tested at the highest level.Of course Sihlangu can find solace in the fact that the two goalkeepers in the squad, the likes of Mphikeleli Dlamini and Nhlanhla Gwebu, are not new in the international stage. They have been there before and will surely provide that reassuring aspect in both games.Their calming presence is expected to boost the rest against a Lesotho team that will obviously be eager to impress the home crowd.Lesotho is likely to come out firing from all cylinders in a bid to intimidate their visitors. They are not a team known for giving Sihlangu problems even though their game has significantly improved over the years.Sihlangu does not have any fond memories of their last outing. It was a horrible game away in the DRC. Of course history has shown that the squad is not amongst the best travellers but the 1-5 mauling at the hands of a ruthless Congolese just went on to depict the gulf in class between local football and some of the best countries the continent has to offer.It is a new start though for Billen’s new-look squad and tonight his ‘infant battalion’ will go out of its way to prove that they can stand their own anywhere.While a lot is not really expected from them, the youngsters are likely to feel the pressure with a majority of the players playing their first away game.   SIHLANGU BRIEF FACT FILE

Head coach: Valere Billen (Belgian)

Assistants: Gcina ‘Magiyane’ Dlamini and Harries ‘Madze’ Bulunga

Goalkeeper coach: Sipho ‘Shilton Dube’

Last international result: Sihlangu 1, DRC 5 (November 15 2011/ 2014 World Cup Preliminary round)

One to watch: Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko – The veteran attacking midfielder is playing the game of his life at the moment. He seems to have turned back the hands of time. Currently topping the charts with four goals in four games played of the MTN League, the Malanti Chiefs playmaker seems yo have taken his game to another level. A lot will be expected from the former Black Leopard man. His experience must rub off on the rest of the squad members if Sihlangu is to harbor hopes of victory in this game. Billen’s game plan will surely revolve around this gifted player, whose knack for goals makes him the danger man.

Sihlangu probable line up

1. Nhlanhla Gwebu

2. Mndeni Mamba

3. Victor Khoza

4. Siboniso Malambe

5. Jerome Ntshalinsthali

6. Mphile ‘Nyandoro’ Tsabedze

7. Mthunzi ‘Xavi’ Mkhontfo

8. Vuyani ‘Mascherano’ Mazibuko

9. Sidumo Shongwe

10. Wonder ‘Samba Jive’ Nhleko

11. Mduduzi ‘Juries’ Gama

Substitutes

12. Mphikeleli Dlamini

13. Gareth Sussman

14. Maqhawe Dlamini

15. Nhlanhla ‘Mshengu’ Kunene

16. Dumsani Mdluli

17. Sabelo Gamedze

18. Zweli ‘Mlilo’ Nxumalo

19. Sanele Chauke

20. Mlamuli Nkambule

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