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Ashes or Flames?

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The Flames, as expected by all those who are sane, religiously and diligently stuck to the script on Friday, maintaining their winless rhythm by losing 1-0 in Yaonde to Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in a Group B qualifier for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

It was a very familiar but tired script for the Flames. Before the finger-pointing and the blame-game starts, I suggest that debate should focus on whether or not the team has done enough to earn a new nickname—ashes.

I believe the Flames perform to the level of ashes and not flames. The fire is gone— assuming it was ever there.

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This is evidenced by the depressing run of two wins, seven defeats and nine draws under the promised one, Ronny van Geneugden (RVG).

The team cannot score, defend, let alone create. Want proof? In the 18 games under the wise and dynamic tutorship of RVG and the backing of Football Association of Malawi (Fam), the team has scored six and conceded 13 goals.

I do not believe the coach is wholly to blame but in football, senior national football team for that matter, the buck stops at the coach. Please do not tell me about RVG grooming players in the Flames.

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That is the responsibility of Meke Mwase (under-20 coach), Derklerk Msakakuona (under-17 mentor), Super League and Premier Division coaches such as Enos Chatama, Albert Mpinganjira and Alfred Chikwanje.

The cancer that is the Flames is so big for one surgeon. In fact, when Fam hired RVG my first question was: “where are the players?

That question was not answered and will never be answered because the quality—or lack of it—of players leaves a lot to be desired and so are the academy football tactics.

This team passes the ball with little penetration and urgency in the attacking third. The Flames cannot win tackles. The passes go backwards and horizontal.

So for all those who are sober enough, Malawi’s loss to Cameroon in Yaonde was not surprising.

Perhaps what was surprising was the respectable margin of defeat against the reigning Afcon kings.

It was even more surprising that it took 62 minutes before Eric Maxim Choupo made the most of goalkeeper Charles Swini’s poor positioning to fire the ball into the roof of the net.

That loss undermined the Flames’ prospects of any sniff of the qualification chance.

Cameroon still lead Group B with seven points from three games followed by Morocco (three), Malawi (three points) then Comoros Islands at the bottom with a point from two games.

At the time of writing, Morocco were playing in Comoros whereas the Flames welcome the Indomitable Lions on Tuesday.

Group winners will qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals which Cameroon will, on paper, host.

In the event that the Indomitable Lions finish top, then the second-best will sail through.

The fact that Cameroon are well behind schedule in constructing stadiums for hosting the continental football showpiece means that their coach Clarence Seedorf is not taking chances.

Seedorf would ensure that his charges finish at least second in the group so as to be on the safer side.

This is the case as reports are rife that the Confederation of African Football might decide otherwise on Cameroon’s hosting of the 2019 Afcon.

The question is why did the Flames even join the continental qualifiers when clubs are not able to compete in Africa regularly?

Pay attention to the clubs, youth and reserve teams and junior national sides, then you can talk about the Flames. Sorry, I meant ashes.

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