Malawi under -17 national football team have been reduced to mere spectators after bowing out of the Cosafa Youth Championship.
The Junior Flames suffered a 3-2 demoralising loss to their Zambian counterparts Wednesday at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.
Zambia finished with nine points as group A leaders and they were joined by eSwatini who finished as runners up with four points after they drew one-all with South Africa.
After the final whistle, the junior Flames were clearly worn-out, frustrated and dejected for their failure to replicate the spirit of 2001 when the side won the title on home soil.
Yet the junior Flames came into the match with renewed hope after some changes including the introduction of goalkeeper Brian Kamenya for Wongani Chimkonde.
Despite an impressive start, it was free scoring Zambia that went ahead in the sixth minute through Lasmond Phiri.
The goal somehow affected the hosts but they recovered to bounce back into the game as Frank Mahowa equalised in the 21st minute.
It was a balanced half as both teams hit the woodwork once each in search for goals.
After resumption, Moses Mulenga restored Zambia’s lead in the 49th minute.
Again the Junior Flames hit back through Chikumbutso Salima in the 57th minute.
As Malawi were attacking wave after wave they were caught napping as substitute Peter Chikola restored Zambia’s lead in the 66th minute.
Malawi under 17 Coach De Klerk Msakakuona said it was painful to bow out of the race during the early stage.
“We need to pick ourselves up to do better next time,” he said.
Zambia Coach Osward Mutapa said having made six changes it was not easy to beat Malawi.
“It is great to win because we made six changes and it is not easy to win.