Junior Flames in must-win game
Malawi’s junior Flames and Uganda’s Hippos cannot afford a draw, let alone a loss, when they meet at Arthur Davies Stadium in today’s Group A semi-final decider of the Cosafa Under-20 Championship.
Both teams have four points from two games but Uganda lead the group on a superior goal aggregate of +2 compared to second-placed Malawi’s +1.
Bottom-placed Zambia and third-positioned Swaziland, who have one point each, also clash in an academic contest later today.
Only a win over the big and athletic Ugandans would guarantee the junior Flames progression to the semi-finals, as overall winners of each of the three groups plus the best runner-up would sail through.
This is the case as in Group B, Egypt and South Africa have amassed six points each with a game to go, thereby eliminating Zambia and Swaziland and also limiting the second-best slot for teams such as Malawi.
In this crucial encounter, Patrick Phiri carries the junior Flames’ hopes.
The Premier Bet Wizards goal-poacher has two goals in two games.
But for Phiri to deliver in the match, needs the reliable company of Griffin Young Stars’ Peter Banda, whose split vision has impressed many.
Mkwate thrived in a midfield diamond role in Friday’s goalless draw against Zambia.
Chimwemwe Idana (Bullets’ Reserve) is Malawi’s midfield brain as he controls the pace of the game.
Equally critical would be the role of Phiri Senior, who needs a tactical master-plan to choke the life out of Uganda and their Coach, Mathias Lule, whose pre-match comments ahead of the game seemed to border on arrogance.
“A game against Malawi is not crucial. Every game is crucial for us. It is not yet over,” Lule said.
Asked about the absence of top scorer, Muhamad Shaban, who was red-carded in Friday’s 2-2 draw against Swaziland, Lule responded: “In Uganda, we believe in a team and not individuals. We have a replacement.”
Phiri Senior admitted that only a win would see his charges through.
“It is a tough game. We just have to win this one,” Phiri said.
Uganda are never the same minus Shaban but the likes of Stephen Mukwala and Pius Obuya can be handy for Malawi if granted acres of space.
Group A P Pts
Uganda 2 4
Malawi 2 4
Swaziland 2 1
Zambia 2 1
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