BY PETER KANJERE:
Malawi under-17 national football team exited the Cosafa Championship after their 1-0 win over Swaziland in Mauritius Wednesday proved insignificant to guarantee semi-final qualification as the best losers.
The bowing out of the Deklerk Msakakuona’s boys comes five days after the under-20 team crashed out of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations’ race.
The under-17 team finished Group C with six points from three games, at par with Group A runners-up Mauritius, who are through to the last-four owing to a superior goal difference of +7 compared to Malawi’s +6.
Malawi also missed a chance to make it to the 2019 Africa Youth Championship in Tanzania. The Cosafa champion will qualify for the continental finals.
Now, Mauritius proceed to date South Africa in the last-four whereas Namibia face Angola who finished on top of Group C with nine points after beating Zimbabwe 2-1 at St Francois Xavier Stadium.
Yet, the start seemed promising for Malawi at Anjalay Stadium where midfielder Lovemore Mbeta opened the scoring in the 28th minute.
South African David Molise officiated the match.
The junior Flames reportedly nearly added a second goal but Swaziland goalkeeper Velekhaya Mkhatshwa kept his side in the game with a superb save.
The junior Flames led 1-0 at half-time. In the second-half, Swaziland thought they had levelled matters but Maseko saw his free-kick bounce off the bar in the 51st minute.
In the 61st minute, Malawi goalkeeper Kennedy Nankhaima produced a great save to smother a curling shot from Mayibongwe Mabuza.
Sensing danger, Malawi Coach, Msakakuona, who deployed a 4-4-2 system, pulled out Gift Jossam for Chimwemwe Namwiyo.
The game ended with Swaziland searching for an equaliser, but it was not to be as they finished third in the group with three points. Malawi, who won bronze in 2016 and 2017, occupy second place with whereas bottom-place Zimbabwe are out without a win.
Malawi: Nakhaima , Kestein Simbi, Francis Mtoso (Captain),Vitumbiko Nyirenda, Patrick Mponda, Blessings Mpokera, Patrick Mwaungulu, Tatenda M’balaka, Mbeta, Emmanuel Mitole, Jossam (Namwiyo).