Flames interim coach Marian Mario Marinica stamped his authority when he axed Al Hilal forward Gerald Phiri Junior from his 23-member squad for Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals slated for next week in Cameroon.
The squad, which was submitted to Confederations of African Football (Caf) on Thursday night, comprises experienced campaigners including captain Limbikani Mzava, Gabadinho Mhango, Richard Mbulu, John Banda and Stanley Sanudi.
Phiri Junior, who moved to Hilal last month, has been an influential player for the Flames, scoring two goals in the Afcon qualifiers against South Sudan and Burkina Faso.
However, under Marinica, who will take charge of the team during the Afcon finals, after poor showing in the World Cup qualifiers under Meck Mwase, he has been considered surplus to requirements.
The former Baroka FC attacker, who is a dead ball specialist, will be among the five reserve players including goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and striker Stain Davie.
All reserve players will be training in Malawi until the final squad will be confirmed by Caf on January 8 midnight.
Marinica has included three debutants in the final squad, namely Silver Strikers duo goalkeeper Charles Thom, winger Zebron Kalima and Civil Service United blossoming defender Lawrence Chaziya.
Addressing a virtual press conference Friday, Marinica said it was not easy to come up with the final squad due to Covid-19 pandemic.
“We had quite a number of players, who would have made it in the 28-man squad but unfortunately Covid has ruled them out as they had no chance to be assessed. So, we made the decision based on what we saw in training,” Marinica said.
“We looked at the value of the players in terms of their current performance and their contribution to the team. If you look at the goalkeepers, we looked at those that have been active recently at club level. We have taken players who are ready to adapt to our new approach.”
The Romanian is implementing the philosophy of playing fast, acting fast and moving fast, being well prepared and organised.
On the three uncapped players, Marinica said they impressed him and they deserved to be in the final squad.
The Flames, who are in Group B of the Afcon finals will start the campaign against Guinea on January 10 before facing Zimbabwe and Senegal on January 14 and 18, respectively.
Former Flames striker Essau Kanyenda, who participated at the 2010 Afcon finals in Angola, said the Romanian had named a good squad.
“I think the new guys who have been included in the squad have been consistent. It is good that they will also learn from the experienced players,” Kanyenda said.
On his part, former Flames left back, Moses Chavula said Phiri Junior should have been included due to his experience.
“The squad is good but Gerald was supposed to be in the final squad. We need players, who will be able to handle pressure,” he said.
Malawi will be making a third appearance at the continental showpiece after 1984 in Ivory Coast and 2010 in Angola.
But the Flames have never gone past the group stages of the tournament.
Here is the full squad
Ernest Kakhobwe, William Thole, Charles Thom
Limbikani Mzava, Dennis Chembezi, Mark Fodya, Gomezgani Chirwa, Lawrence Chaziya, Stanely Sanudi, Peter Cholopi
John Banda, Charles Petro, Chimwemwe Idana, Chikoti Chirwa
Robin Ngalande, Yamikani Chester, Micium Mhone, Francisco Madinga, Peter Banda, Zebron Kalima
Brighton Munthali, Paul Ndlovu, Stain Davie, Norchard Chimbalanga, Gerald Phiri Junior.