Malawi Under-17 passes age test, face Angola
BY PETER KANJERE:
All Malawi under-17 national football team’s 20 players have reportedly passed the age screening exercise in Mauritius—now the junior Flames must pass the test on the pitch when lining up against Angola this morning.
Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Vice General Secretary, Suzgo Nyirenda, Thursday confirmed that the players passed the rigorous screening which took place on Tuesday.
Cosafa, with the help of Uefa team of doctors, tested the boys’ wrists as part of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging which detects growth plates on the bones. The plate disappears in players aged above 17.
Now the centre of attraction will be on the pitch as the junior Flames host the young Angolans in the Group C opener scheduled for Stade Anjalay.
Malawi Coach, Deklerk Msakakuona, has travelled to Mauritius with an inexperienced squad. Little wonder, he, before departure, refused to set targets.
Msakakuona, who is seeking to better the bronze his charges won in 2016 and 2017 at the same competition, had 10 days only to drill his charges, and you can understand why he is lowering his expectations.
“They are good players. Obviously, they are young so we do not want to set targets for them. What is important is not to put them under pressure but encourage them to go and enjoy the tournament.
“They are good players in their own right but you cannot compare them to the squad we had in the previous two editions. We are just encouraging them to go and work hard. Every team goes to such competitions with an aim of winning but, if we win, it would be a bonus. The ultimate aim of this competition is development,” Msakakuona said.
Malawi are in group C also comprising Swaziland and Angola. Swaziland date Zimbabwe at the same venue this afternoon with the junior Flames next matches against Zimbabwe and Swaziland scheduled for Monday and Wednesday respectively. Zambia are the defending champions.
Ironically, Malawi under-20 national football team also faced Swaziland and Angola in the qualifiers of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The junior Flames sailed past Swaziland and Angola to date South Africa in the third and final qualifying round.
Msakakuona hopes that his boys can be encouraged by the performance of the under-20 team.
“Last year, we were in the same group with Zimbabwe but Angola and Swaziland were not there. However, the way the senior teams play is similar to what we can expect from these opponents,” he said.
Msakakuona is likely to deploy Emmanuel Mitole as the lead attacker with Wongani Sabiti placed between the sticks.
Malawi had their finest hour as hosts in 2001 when they lifted the Cosafa under-17 championship on home soil.
On the continental level, Malawi under-17 qualified for the 2009 Africa Youth Championship finals in Algeria, then the subsequent World Cup finals in Nigeria the same year.
The Angolans are making a return to the championship after missing the last two editions.
The overall winner of the championship in Mauritius will qualify for the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations to take place in Tanzania next year.
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