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Painful exit

SO NEAR YET SO FAR—Malawi U-20 (in green) take on Namibia

Patrick Mabedi

So painful indeed! Malawi Under-20 National Football Team, the young Flames, were so close to ending their 11-year pursuit of a place in the semifinals of the Cosafa Cup but they crashed out of the tournament on goal-difference.

The young Flames defeated Namibia 5-2 at Somholo Stadium in eSwatini but it was not enough to earn them a place in the last four of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Cosafa qualifiers.

They finished the group stages campaign on second position with six points from three matches, level on points with South Africa but the Young Flames have an inferior goal-difference to Amajita, who advanced as leaders.

Malawi’s goal difference was three against South Africa’s five.

Comoros also finished with six points but also crashed out as they finished third.

The young Flames were in prime position to book their first semifinals place in 11 years after leading 4-0 until the 62nd minute when they allowed Namibia to score two goals in a space of three minutes. The two goals they conceded ended Malawi’s hopes.

Player-of-the-match Chikumbutso Salima gave Malawi the lead with a composed finish 11 minutes into the match before he doubled the lead in the 40th minute from the penalty spot.

After the break, captain Chifundo Mphasi scored the third goal for Malawi and his second of the tournament in the 49th minute.

Chrispine Mapemba scored the fourth goal of the match.

However, Malawi switched off and looked contented with the four goals. Raymonzo Stern pulled a goal back for Namibia in the 62nd minute before Rewaldo Prins scored the second goal for Namibia.

Sensing danger, the young Flames reorganised themselves and piled pressure. Substitute Emmanuel Saviel scored the fifth goal in the 83rd minute when he tapped in a Happy Mphepo cross.

But it was too little, too late as they needed two goals to overtake South Africa but the goals never came.

Malawi Under-20 Coach Patrick Mabedi said his charges paid the price of letting in silly goals.

“We tried and did everything possible to win the match. Unfortunately, we conceded some silly goals. But there are some lessons from the tournament and the most important thing is that we gave the players exposure,” he said.

During this year’s tournament, Malawi beat South Africa 2-0 in the opening match but lost by a similar margin to Comoros.

South Africa, who defeated Comoros 4-0 Wednesday, will face defending champions Mozambique whereas the other semifinal involves Zambia and Angola.

The finalists will qualify for the 2023 Afcon finals to be staged in Egypt.

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