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No love lost

Malawi under-20 national football team lock horns with Zambia this evening at Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe in the two sides’ second Group A match of the 2017 Cosafa Youth Championship.
While the junior Flames go into the battle with a spring in their step following Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Swaziland at the same venue, Zambia are seething with anger following a 2-0 loss to guests, and now group leaders, Uganda.
The neighbours are in a four-member group from which only one will make it to the semi-finals alongside other top teams from groups B and C, plus the overall best runner-up.
Malawi and Uganda have three points each but the Cranes lead on goal difference whereas Zambia anchor the group with no point and no goal.
But Malawi Head Coach, Gerald Phiri Senior, insisted that he was not worried by the second half defensive gaffes that nearly cost the junior Flames the win.
“We hope to do better in the next game. There are areas that need polishing up but I cannot single them out. We know it is going to be a tough game against Zambia, but we are ready for them,” Phiri said.
Peter Banda and Patrick Phiri (two goals) scored in the game against Swaziland.
Attacking midfielder Mike Mkwate has been impressive, creating space for others and making them play, but he is not consistent.
The junior Flames’ biggest asset is Precious Sambani, who, as a left wingback, is everything you need in a modern footballer going forward and defensively. However, Sambani is an injury-doubt and Phiri is keeping fingers crossed. Hajison Wali and Kondwani Mwaila have been steady in the heart of the defence.
Zambia’s Numba, who has been elevated to his current position after winning gold for the 2017 Cosafa Under-17 Championship in Mauritius, is wearing a brave face ahead of the second game.
He has drafted in his squad, 10 players from the under-17 squad plus Sweden-based right winger Edward Chilufya, and has admitted that the loss to Uganda had made life difficult.
“It is a very tough group, looking at the teams. There are no easy teams in football and that is why it is important for us to apply ourselves on the pitch,” Numba said.
In another match for the group, Swaziland take on Uganda today.
Kitwe is hosting all group and semi-final matches at Nkana and Arthur Davies stadiums.
The final and bronze medal matches will be played on December 16 in Ndola at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.

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