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Flames Under-17 drawn in tricky group

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THE Malawi Under-17 National Football Team has been drawn in a tricky group for this year’s Cosafa Under-17 Championship to be hosted by Mauritius next month.

The draw took place yesterday in South Africa and the competition runs from July 21-30. According to cosafa.com, the junior Flames are in the same group as hosts Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Botswana in Group A whereas South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Madagascar are in Group B.

Football Association of Malawi (Fam) First Vice President, James Mwenda, said it was a tricky draw and they need to strategise on how to help the team continue with its impressive run in the tournament.

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The Junior Flames won bronze at last year’s event with the team’s top striker Peter Banda winning the Golden Boot award.

“The results of the draw do not surprise us in any way. In such circumstances, you expect to be drawn in the same group with any team. You have no right to choose. All we need to do is to put in place strong mechanisms to ensure that the team continues performing well and bringing home the results. We will definitely be under pressure following last year’s showing,” he said.

Mwenda said Fam executive and the Youth and Technical Subcommittee would meet soon to strategise on the team’s technical panel following the promotion of coach De Klerk Msakakuona to Flames assistant.

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“Obviously, we might have a new name but it is a decision that needs input from all stakeholders. Once we meet, we will know when camp training will commence as well,” he said.

The draw split the competing teams into two pools of four sides each, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals. With defending champions Namibia electing not to participate this year, the competition will have a new champion.

Hosts Mauritius headline Group A, hoping to improve on their 2016 showing, also on home soil, when they exited in the first round.

The Young Flames made the semifinals and eventually finished third, beating East African guest nation Kenya in the bronze-medal match. Last year’s beaten finalists, South Africa, are in Group B along with heavyweights Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar.

Zambia stormed through the pool stage last year with three wins from three, but were later disqualified having been found guilty of fielding two over-age players.

They will want to atone for that error and will be among the pretournament favourites given the excellent development structures and fine array of talent they have in the country.

Madagascar lost all three of their matches in 2016, while Mozambique did not compete.

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