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‘Flames down but not out’

Another Covid test awaits team

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Walter Nyamilandu

Malawi National Football Team’s Head of Technical Mario Marian Marinica is optimistic that his charges can sneak into the next round despite having a losing start at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon.

Marinica was reacting to the Flames’ 1-0 loss to Guinea in a Group B match at Bafoussam Stadium on Monday.

“It was a great performance from the players. Coach Meck [Mwase] and the players were fantastic. Our game plan worked well. It was very close to what was planned. Statistics show we had only 133 completed passes, 80 attacks and 28 dangerous attacks. We created six corners and nine shots of which six were on target. We also had four fantastic saves by the opponents’ goal keeper,” he observed.

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Marinica praised his charges for outstanding performance but warned against burdening them with unrealistic targets.

“People do not know what was happening. Dennis Chembezi was vomiting all day. He was sick but he still worked hard. Other players played out of position but were fantastic.

“We have to help these players get to the stage we want them to be. We want to get them to the World Cup. But in order to do that we need patience. We need to nurture them. They are kids. They are on a learning curve. Let us be more gentle and avoid putting pressure on unrealistic targets,” said Marinica, who was among 13 members of the Flames that were sidelined from the match after testing positive for Coronavirus.

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Football Association of Malawi (Fam) President Walter Nyamilandu echoed Marinica’s sentiments.

“We played well, created many scoring opportunities and we also defended well but we are lacking a killer instinct; otherwise, we are on course,” he said.

Former Flames and Mighty Wanderers midfielder Sherry Msuku concurred with Marinica but observed that the game-plan faded in the second half.

“In the first 30 minutes, we followed the coach’s philosophy but we lost direction for the remainder of the game. The players especially defenders, resorted to high long balls to the frontline, which paid no dividends,” he said.

In a related development, the Flames had a recovery session Tuesday morning at the tennis courts of La Valle de Bana Hotel before an afternoon session at Municipal de Bafang Stadium.

Defender-cum-midfielder Charles Petro and left-back Mark Fodya, who joined the team on Monday from Saudi Arabia, trained with the rest of the squad.

Meanwhile, five reserve-placed players who had been left out of Mario Marinicas’ final squad, finally arrived in Bafoussam, Cameroon, Tuesday.

The five are Sudan-based Gerald Phiri Jnr, Mafco duo of Paul Ndhlovu and Dan Chimbalanga, goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and striker Stain Davie.

Fam Media and Competitions Director Gomezgani Zakazaka confirmed that the five will be in contention for a starting place if they impress during training.

The whole Flames delegation will have a Covid test today ahead of Friday’s must-win match against Zimbabwe.

Flames are third in Group B without a point and they edge bottom-placed Zimbabwe on alphabetical order.

Currently, Senegal, who narrowly defeated Zimbabwe 1-0, top the group while Guinea are second. Both have three points.

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