Malawi Under-20 national football team— a conveyer belt of talent to the Flames—has enjoyed a rare luxury of being exempted from the first qualifying round of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Junior Championship.
After being seeded, Malawi will now join the qualifying marathon from the second round, thereby increasing the Junior Flames’ prospects of qualifying for the continental finals to be staged in Zambia next year.
In the second round, Malawi will date the overall winner of a first round contest between Kenya and Sudan in May, Confederation of African Football (Caf) fixtures released on Friday indicate.
The Junior Flames are on bye alongside South Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Egypt, Lesotho, Libya and Mali, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal.
The preliminary round games start in April with the second round in May. Finalists will be determined after third round in July.
Seven teams will emerge from the qualifiers to join the hosts for the final tournaments early next year.
However, the Junior Flames participation in the qualifiers hinges on Football Association of Malawi (Fam) securing funding, general secretary, Suzgo Nyirenda said on Sunday.
“We will see how we can prepare for this. We have been seeded based on how we performed by reaching the third round of the qualifiers for the previous edition . We need to take this up with the superiors and look at the issue of finances,” Nyirenda explained.
He added that Caf is encouraging each country to also participate in Under-17 qualifiers for the continental qualifiers.
The final tournament of the U-17 Afcon will be held from April 2 to 16 2017 in Madagascar, with Zambia hosting the U-20 Afcon from February 26 to 12 March 2017.
The top four finishers at the continental championship qualify to represent Africa at the respective Fifa World cups.
Most players who made the Under-20 team in 2014, such as Brighton Munthali, Isaac Kaliyati and Stanley Sanudi, have since graduated into the Flames under coach Ernest Mtawali.
Malawi reached the World Cup final for the Under-17 in 2009 in Nigeria. The Under-17 products include the Flames captain Limbikani Mzava, Robin Ngalande, Kondwani Lufeyo, Luka Milanzi, Gastin Simkonda, Francis Mulimbika, Mike Kaziputa and Peter Nselema
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