Malawi National Football Team Coach Mario Marian Marinica has once again told local fans not to expect the moon and sun when his team participates in the 2022 Cosafa Cup slated to run from July 5 to 17 in South Africa.
Marinica was reacting to the 2022 Cosafa Cup draw held yesterday at Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, in the Rainbow Nation.
During the draw, The Flames were drawn in Group B of the Cosafa Cup alongside Lesotho, Mauritius and eSwatini.
The Romanian said all the teams including Malawi have equal chances of winning the competition.
“If Malawi has a chance of winning the competition for the first time ever, I presume that every team that enters the competition has a chance to win it; we will see. Do not have expectations, just have beliefs and be united behind The Flames and we will prevail,” Marinica said in an interview with Football Association of Malawi (Fam) media.
He made similar comments before the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Ethiopia and Guinea last week.
Since the Cosafa Cup was introduced in 1997, The Flames have never won it despite reaching the final in 2001 and 2003 under Kim Splidsboel.
Marinica also described the draw as well balanced.
“The draw was relatively well balanced. We all need to think that all the other three teams have chances,” he said.
Should The Flames progress to the quarterfinals of the tournament, they will face The Lions of Teranga (Senegal), who return to the competition for a second year in a row having finished as runners-up last year.
Marinica is likely to feature more Malawi-based players during the Cosafa Cup with the focus on the Nations of African Championship (Chan) as Malawi will face Zimbabwe.
Players like first choice goalkeeper Charles Thom, Blessings Mpokera, Alick Lungu, Chawanangwa Gumbo, Stain Davie and Gomezgani Chirwa are some of the players to be part of the Cosafa Cup squad.
Group A comprises Angola, Comoros Islands and Botswana. Only the top team in each group will advance to the quarterfinals of the competition.
Holders South Africa will meet Mozambique whereas Zambia will face winner of Group A. Madagascar will be in action against Namibia in another quarterfinal.
The winners of the quarterfinals will advance to the semifinals whereas the losers will drop into the Plate competition.
The Plate competition returns this year after a two-year absence.
A total of 14 teams will take part in this year’s competition. Malawi will start the competition from the group stages as they are among the lowly ranked eight teams.
Football Association of Malawi President Walter Nyamilandu said the Cosafa Cup will help expose players.
“Though we are cash strapped, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity of continuously rebuilding the team with high performing players. We are looking at making the most of the three matches that we have been guaranteed to expose new talent,” Nyamilandu said last week.
The Flames reached the Cosafa Cup quarterfinals in 2019 under Meck Mwase but lost 4-2 on post-match penalties to Zambia after 2-2 stalemate in regulation time. They were relegated to the Plate competition but lost 5-4 to South Africa on post-match penalties.
However, last year The Flames exited in the group stages having lost two matches (Senegal 2-1), Mozambique (2-0) and two draws against Zimbabwe (2-2) and Namibia (1-1) held in Port Elizabeth South Africa.