Flames aim for the stars in Cosafa opener
Malawi National Football Team Coach, Ronny Van Geneugden, faces one of the biggest tests in his career as Flames mentor when his troops begin this year’s Cosafa Cup campaign against unpredictable Tanzania at Moruleng Stadium in South Africa’s North West Province Sunday afternoon.
The Flames, who for the third successive year will have to bargain their way from the preliminary phases, were drawn in Group A alongside tomorrow’s opponents, Taifa Stars, Angola and Mauritius.
After a disastrous campaign last year in Namibia, the 2015 Cosafa Plate winners (Flames) would want to better last year’s record at this year’s tournament when starting with Taifa Stars before meeting Angola and Mauritius.
Flames and Taifa Stars are separated by 22 places on Fifa rankings, with the Flames on 117 whereas Taifa Stars are on position 139.
For the past 20 years at the Cosafa Cup, Malawi and Tanzania have only met once with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.
The two sides met again in the World Cup qualifiers in 2015 when the Flames lost 0-2 away before winning 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The overall winner of Group A will book a quarterfinal berth against hosts and defending champions South Africa.
It will be Geneugden’s fifth consecutive game in charge of the Flames having claimed a single victory, a draw and two losses in four previous games.
Without his foreign-based legion, the Belgian has blended experience with fresh blood in the squad for the regional showpiece.
Local fans are anxiously waiting for better results after the team put up a comical display in the African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers— losing 2-0 to Madagascar on aggregate.
But Geneugden is confident of emerging victorious against the East African neighbours.
“We have prepared well for the tournament and I have selected the best players who will do the job in South Africa,” Geneugden told reporters in Blantyre on Wednesday.
However, Taifa Stars are no longer push-overs and can cause plenty of problems for the Flames.
In the 1-0 victory over Comoros, the Belgian deployed three defenders with Stanley Sanudi playing as a right wing back
Francis Mlimbika or John Lanjesi will lead the team from the back with midfield maestro Chikoti Chirwa likely to start alongside Yamikani Chester, Dalitso Sailesi and Jabulani Linje.
Ernest Kakhobwe is likely to be picked first for the goalkeeping position.
According to one of Tanzania’s newspapers, Daily News, Taifa Stars Coach, Salum Mayanga, has assembled a squad comprising two foreign-based players namely Thomas Ulimwengu, who plays for Swedish club Athletic FC Eskilstuna and Oman-based forward Elius Maguli.
The team also comprises debutants Salmin Hoza (Mbao FC), Amim Abdulkarim (Toto Africans), Shaban Idd (Azam FC), Stamili Mbonde (Mtibwa Sugar), Raphael Daudi (Mbeya City) and Nurdin Chona (Tanzania Prisons).
“We have 22 players in camp and all were pronounced fit to commence training after passing medical tests,” Taifa Stars Team Manager, Danny Msangi, was quoted as saying.
The Tanzanians are at the Cosafa Cup for the third time having debuted in 1997.
In 2015, the Stars lost all of their three games without scoring a goal.
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