Malawi National Football Team has welcomed the new format for Cosafa Cup, which kicked off Tuesday in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
The new format came after there was a late withdrawal of Madagascar, who were in the same group with Malawi and Zambia.
Comoros Islands also pulled out of the competition from the same group, which left it with only Malawi and Zambia. Following the change, the tournament has two groups comprising five teams each—meaning that each team will play a minimum of four matches.
The new draw sees Malawi and Zambia being paired in Groups B and A, respectively.
The Flames are in Group B alongside quest nation Senegal, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique whereas Group A comprises defending champions Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and eSwatini. Malawi will begin the Cosafa Cup campaign against Zimbabwe at Isaac Wolfson Stadium on Friday before facing Mozambique at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday.
The Flames will meet Namibia two days later at the same venue before wrapping up the group campaign against Namibia on July 14.
Flames Team Manager Clement Kafwafwa said the changes would not disturb his troops.
“We have very good young players who are in transition to the senior team. We just need to have mental strength,” Kafwafwa said.
“And meeting Senegal will be another added advantage to us since we are also playing against Cameroon in the World Cup qualifying game; so, it will give us a true picture of where we are.”
Top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals of the competition.
Mwase has assembled a squad comprising experienced and up-and-coming players.
Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina said it was a tricky group for Malawi.
“This is a good opportunity that Malawi because we will play more games. It is time for the players and coaches prove their worth,” he added.
Five foreign country-based players namely Tawonga Chimodzi, Ndaziona Chatsalira, Schumacher Kuwali, Dennis Chembezi and Khuda Muyaba are in the squad.
TNM Super League top goal-scorer Maxwell Phodo, exciting midfielders Vitumbiko Kumwenda and Mike Mkwate are also part of the team.
Since the competition was introduced in 1997, the Flames have never won it although they reached the finals in 2002 and 2003.
Last year, the competition did not take place due to the Covid pandemic but in 2019 Malawi exited in the quarterfinals after losing 4-2 to Zambia.