Despite bloating the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finalists list from 16 to 24, the road to the 2019 finals is still full of humps and bumps for the Malawi National Football Team.
According to the Confederation of African Football (Caf) Interim General Secretary, Esaam Ahmed, Malawi will not enjoy the luxury of the other 12 groups which will produce two finalists each.
In a letter dated August 3 2017, addressed to all affiliates, including Fam General Secretary, Alfred Gunda, teams for group
B—Cameroon, Malawi, Comoros and Morocco—will only produce one finalist.
“There are 12 groups of four teams (Group A to L). The teams classified as first of each group will join the host country in the final tournament as well as the teams classified as second of all the groups except that of the host country,” Ahmed wrote to Gunda.
“In case the host team is classified as first in its group, the runners up of the group will qualify to the final tournament. All matches of the host team will count when calculating the results of its group.”
Reacting to Caf’s decision, Flames Assistant Coach, Gerald Phiri Senior, yesterday said the group was now tricky.
“We had an upper hand with the previous qualifying mode as, in the event that Cameroon finished on top, we stood a chance to qualify after finishing on third place.
“Now, with this latest development, apart from the away game in Comoros, we need to plan around the matches against Morocco and try to get a draw away and a win at home. We cannot afford a loss to Morocco. The battle is between us and Morocco and getting four points from a maximum of six will do the trick for us,” Phiri said.
So, what should be done for the Flames?
Phiri said: “We need to plan carefully for these games. Planning would entail utilising the remaining three Fifa calendar days by playing friendly games.”
In the 2019 qualifiers, Malawi are second in the group with three points after beating Comoros 1-0 at Bingu National Stadium through a Phiri Junior’s strike. Cameroon top the standings after defeating Morocco in Yaounde.
The increase follows a Caf decision made during an Executive Committee meeting held in Morocco on July 20.
Fam President, Walter Nyamilandu and Gunda attended a seminar held a day before Caf’s Executive Committee meeting.
“We fully support the proposal to increase the teams from 16 to 24 because it gives participating teams a realistic chance of qualifying and giving back value for the investment made.
“This value proposition will also appeal to sponsors because of the likely return on the investment made. We have marginally missed out in the past when we could have qualified for being number two or three in the group,” Nyamilandu said after the resolutions from Morocco.
Malawi qualified for Afcon finals in 1984 and 2010 under Henry Moyo (deceased) and Kinnah Phiri, respectively.
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