By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Malawi under-20 national football team has been handed a relatively tough draw at the 2018 Cosafa Youth Championship slated for Kitwe, Zambia, from December 2 to 14.
The junior Flames are in group A alongside Zambia— who are considered cousins since the two countries share a lot in common, including borders—Mozambique and new-comers, Reunion.
Group B comprises defending champions South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius and eSwatini whereas Group C has Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana.
Only a top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals, where the competition switches to a knockout format.
Malawi and Zambia were also in the same group during last year’s edition of the tournament which Kitwe hosted.
The junior Flames assistant Coach, Lovemore Fazili, Wednesday described the draw as ‘fair’, saying they are familiar with most of the opponents in the group.
“It is a good draw for us because, save for Reunion, we know each other well. I think we can make it this year because we have a good crop of players. We will go there on a serious mission and, no doubt, we would do better,” Fazili said.
A few months ago, Malawi defeated Zambia 1-0 in a friendly in Lusaka just a day after the Chipolopolo boys won 1-0 at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe in a strength-testing match.
In react ion, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Vice-President, James Mwenda, said he was happy with the draw.
“In the past editions, we struggled because our players lacked exposure but now they have experience,” Mwenda said.
Malawi’s hopes would be on most players from the under-20 squad which nearly qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals but lost 2-0 to South Africa at BNS.
Some of the players expected to be included in the squad are Chinsinsi Maonga, Chikondi Mbeta, Peter Banda, Francisco Madinga and Charles Petro.
In the last two editions, the junior Flames have failed go past the group stages.
Last year, Malawi exited the competition on goal-aggregate after beating eSwatini 3-1, drawing 0-0 and 1-1 against Zambia and Uganda respectively.
In 2016, the junior Flames failed to score in three games held in South Africa. Malawi reached the final of the 2002 edition, their best showing at this stage of the competition.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues