By Mabvuto Kambuwe
Malawi Under-20 National Football Team Coach Patrick Mabedi has told his boys to double their efforts and fight for the country when facing Zambia in a must-win match.
The two sides square off in the Cosafa qualifiers for Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) at Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, this afternoon.
The junior Flames must beat Zambia by more than a two-goal margin to book a place in the semifinals and hope that Namibia should not get a convincing victory over Comoros Island in another
Group B match at Gelvandale Stadium.
The reality is that it will be a tall order for Malawi against Zambia—a side that has been the most successful team in the Cosafa Under-20 championship having won 11 titles since the competition was
In the last three editions, Malawi
have been paired against Zambia t got eliminated in the group stages on all occasions.
When the two sides met at the same stage in Zambia, the Young Copper Bullets triumphed 2-1 to eliminate
Malawi from the competition.
However, Mabedi is optimistic of tearing up history papers against Zambia.
“It is true that Zambia has been giving Malawi problems. but it’s just a mental aspect. We need to change that,” Mabedi said after the loss to Namibia.
“It is all about character and dedication from the players. We need to go out there and fight for the country. We should not lose hope now. In football, anything can happen; we just need to work hard and double our efforts to do well.”
The former Kaizer Chiefs player and manager might make changes to the team that lost 2-1 to Namibia in the second game.
Goalkeeper Hastings Banda was nervous in the game against Namibia whereas the striking partnership comprising Chikondi
Mbeta, Patrick Mwaungulu and Lanjesi Nkhoma was also wasteful.
Group winners from each group and overall best runner-up will advance to the semifinals, with finalists earning an automatic qualification to U-20 Afcon finals in Mauritania next year.
For the past nine years, the junior Flames have failed to go past the group stages.
The last time Malawi reached the semifinals of the competition was in 2011 but lost 4-2 to Angola in the semifinals before losing 1-0 to Botswana to finish fourth.
Since the introduction of the Cosafa Cup in this age group, Malawi have never won it but their best ever finish was runners-up spot in 2003 after losing to Zambia.