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Flames unshaken

Mario philosophy sparks debate

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BELOW PAR—Flames struggles against Guinea

Despite disjointed performances in two recent games, Malawi National Football Team Coach Mario Marian Marinica is confident his charges will qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals slated for Ivory Coast.

Pressure is slowly but steadily mounting for Marinica as analysts and others have questioned his philosophy, which they say seems not compatible with the Flames.

They have questioned his fielding of players and sticking to the same line-up and formation for home and away ties.

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The Flames have struggled for possession, failing to reach 30 percent ball possession in three consecutive matches.

Marinica said despite losing 1-0 to Guinea on Thursday in Conakry, the Flames have realistic chances of qualifying for next year’s finals.

“We have fantastic chances of qualifying for Afcon finals. We did a fantastic job against Ethiopia and we were just few minutes away from getting a point against Guinea and we still have our chances,” Marinica, whose charges sweated to beat Ethiopia 2-1 at Bingu National Stadium on Sunday, said.

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The Romanian’s direct football style, popularly known as fast and very fast football, has been criticised for lacking flair.

The style has exposed the midfielders and defenders in the last three matches.

In the last three matches, starting with the 2021 delayed Afcon finals round of 16 match against Morocco and the two recent matches in the 2023 Afcon qualifiers, the Flames have registered below 30 percent ball possession.

Against Ethiopia in which the Flames won 2-1 courtesy of Frank Gabadinho Mhango’s brace, Malawi registered 28 percent ball possession whereas in the 1-0 loss to Guinea on Thursday, the Flames had 27 percent ball possession.

Additionally, the Flames lacked accuracy in their passes having only registered 53 percent against Guinea’s 82 percent.

That is not all; in the entire match, the Flames had no shot on target whereas Guinea had only two. Despite beating Ethiopia, the Flames also had very few shots on target.

Some sports analysts have said it was high time Marinica revised his direct football style.

Sports analyst George Chiusiwa said it would have been better if the system was introduced at the junior level.

“We all saw how the football philosophy miserably failed to deliver results for the Flames Under-23 in Turkey. Expecting the new philosophy to flourish among the Flames players when the team is already actively involved in Afcon qualification battle is self-defeating and demanding too much from the players,” Chiusiwa said.

“And the new system is effectively exposing defenders badly such that it is difficult to command good possession while building up good play from the back. Going back to our usual football before Marinica came on board would not be a bad idea.”

In the match against Ethiopia, the Walias enjoyed massive possession of 73 percent against Malawi’s 27 percent. Malawi had five shots on target out of 13 shots whereas Ethiopia had two.

On his part, Football consultant Kelvin Moyo said Marinica’s style is not encouraging players to keep possession.

“From the look of things, our current strategy is to catch teams on the break. The only problem is that teams that do not keep possession have minimal chances of grinding results,” Moyo said.

However, Flames stand-in captain Christopher John Banda threw his weight behind Marinica’s style of play before the match against Guinea.

“It is better to play badly and win. We are just drivers under instructions and the coach is the instructor. We follow what he says,” Banda said.

After two matches, the Flames are second in Group D with three points, behind leaders Ethiopia on goal-difference. Guinea and Egypt also have the same number of points on third and fourth positions respectively.

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