Amalawi tiyeni kumudzi basi! (just go back home you Malawians!) A fan screamed in disjointed Chichewa at a deserted Moruleng Stadium in South Africa’s North West Province Tuesday morning.
And with that Malawi Under-20 National Football Team’s Cosafa Youth Championship time was over at exactly 1 pm after characteristically losing 0-1 to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a dead-rubber match.
The Junior Flames, who could have easily lost 0-5 if goalkeeper Christopher Mikuwa had not denied the huge DRC strikers countless times with one-handed saves, punches and blocks, exited the competition without scoring in three games in which they let in four goals following a goalless draw with Zimbabwe and a 3-0 loss to Zambia.
However, in a post-match interview, Coach Gerald Phiri Senior chose to focus on the future.
“Yes, it is disappointing that we are out without even scoring a goal. Yes, I know that people need results but that should not stop us, as a country, from taking the long and painful route to development,” Phiri said.
During the game, DRC scored through Nathan Lusuku who rose the highest over Malawi’s defence to nod past Mikuwa after meeting a high ball whipped from the left-wing in the 25th minute.
But when the bearded Lusuku, Chadrack Lukombe and Peter Zulu bombarded Malawi’s goalposts with bullets fired from all angles, Mikuwa had a goalkeeping answer.
The young custodian flew to punch out shots, blocked with his legs and spread himself to the ground to ensure respect to the score-line.
In Mikuwa, defenders Hadji Wali and Kondwani Mwaila and captain Mike Mkwate plus Peter Banda, who was unavailable through injury, the team has a bright future.
However, save for a goal-bound substitute Ronald Pangani’s shot which DRC’s Zulu cleared off the line, the Junior Flames were so blunt upfront.
The Junior Flames are very talented but too inexperienced. They dribble when they are supposed to pass and vice versa.
The Junior Flames are gems rough around the edges but gems all the same. It hurts but their loss is not a crisis.
Malawi starting XI: Mikuwa Kennedy Kachimamga, Johnson (Pangani), Mkwate (c), Chimwemwe Idana, (Yafet Mangani), Francisco Madinga, Nickson Nyasulu, Precious Sambani, Abel Mwakilama, Wali, Kondwani Mwaila.
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