By Mabvuto Kambuwe
Malawi Under-17 National Football Team will be in action against Botswana in the opening match of the Region 5 Games at Setsoto Stadium in Maseru, Lesotho, this afternoon.
Initially, the Junior Flames were supposed to face Seychelles in the opening match but their opponents have pulled out of the tournament due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Cosafa released a statement yesterday indicating that the boys tournament would have six teams only after withdrawals of holders South Africa, Comoros, Zimbabwe and Seychelles.
This means Group B has Malawi, Botswana and Angola whereas Group A comprises hosts Lesotho, Zambia and eSwatini.
In Group A opening match, Lesotho will meet Zambia.
The Junior Flames will face Angola in the last group match on Friday at the same venue. Malawi Under-17 Coach Deklerk Msakakuona is hoping for an improved performance this year after a poor campaign in 2020.
There is renewed hope in the camp as Msakakuona has assembled a completely different squad.
Msakakuona, before departure, said there was no need to put pressure on the boys.
“We have prepared well for the tournament and we hope the players will be able to showcase their skills,” he said.
Top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals of the competition.
Last year, the Junior Flames finished bottom in a tournament which had four teams after failing to register a win in all matches.