Junior Flames drawn with Zambia, Swaziland, Uganda
Tricky. Tough. These were the two words that Malawi under-20 national football team Coach, Gerald Phiri Senior, mentioned first Thursday when he learnt about the outcome of Cosafa Youth Championship draw.
Phiri had every reason to be shaken as his junior Flames were drawn alongside defending champions and hosts Zambia, Swaziland and guests Uganda in Group A of the regional football showpiece.
Being put in the same group with defending champions is never easy, even more when they are playing at home. Nonetheless, I have faith in my players,” the man, who also serves as an assistant to Flames mentor, Ronny van Geneugden, said.
Phiri should be hoping for an improved showing in Zambia as his charges returned home empty-handed from a similar event in South Africa last year.
“We have maintained most of the players from the squad of last year, so we are assured of continuity. We can compete with Swaziland and Uganda, but the stumbling block is Zambia,” the former Azam Tigers coach added.
Phiri has summoned in camp talented players such as Abel Mwakilama, Peter Banda, Levison Maganizo and Mike Mkwate.
Malawi has never won the championship but came mightily so close in 2003 after reaching the final.
Zambia’s copper-rich city of Kitwe will host the competition from December 6 to 16.
Zambia will kick-start the competition with a meeting against Uganda at Arthur Davies Stadium on December 6 followed, on the same day, by the junior Flames versus Swaziland.
The draw, which took place in Johannesburg, also put South Africa in Group B alongside guests Egypt, Mauritius and Mozambique, with Angola, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Namibia completing Group C.
During the draw, which was not scheduled for Wednesday as The Daily Times erroneously indicated, had 12 teams split into three groups.
Group winners and overall second-best teams would progress to the semi-finals.
The championship is critical to football development in Southern Africa, as graduates from such an event usually make an instant impact once promoted to senior teams.
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