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Zambia again!

Junior Flames draw Zambia for the third year in regional competitions

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Deklerk Msakakuona

Malawi’s rivalry with Zambia in football is set to continue at this year’s African Union Region 5 Games in Maseru, Lesotho, as the two countries’ under-17 national football teams have been drawn in the same group.

The development follows a redraw of the Games which are scheduled for November 30 to December 8.

The redraw took place yesterday in Johannesburg, South Africa, after the late inclusion of Zimbabwe which has taken the number of teams in the boys’ competition to 11.

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This means the regional contest now has three groups.

Initially, there were only two groups of five teams each, with the junior Flames being drawn in Group B alongside defending champions South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Seychelles.

Malawi are now in Group C alongside Zambia and Seychelles.

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The junior Flames’ coach DeKlerk Msakakuona described the draw as fair.

“It is a fair group. We just need to plan and prepare well. There is no easy or tough group at the competition. It all goes with your planning and preparation.

“We are going there with a completely new team that we want to play together for a long time. There is no need for us to be under pressure. We just need to go there and showcase what we are capable of doing,” Msakakuona said.

Malawi and Zambia also met during the 2019 and 2020 editions, with the junior Flames losing 3-2 and 6-2, respectively.

Group A comprises Lesotho, eSwatini, Zimbabwe and Madagascar whereas Group B has South Africa, Angola, Botswana and Mauritius.

Only the top team in each group and the best runner-up will qualify for the semifinals of the competition.

In a bid to achieve fairness, organisers have arranged that results against bottom-placed teams in groups A and B will not count when determining the best loser to join the three group winners in the last four.

Former Flames midfielder Sherry Msuku said he believed Malawi had a better chance of qualifying for the semifinals.

“We just need to collect maximum points in our matches. All the boys need are proper preparations,” Msuku said.

The junior Flames will be hoping for an improved performance after finishing last during the 2020 edition.

The 2020 edition only had four teams after Comoros, Zimbabwe, Botswana and eSwatini were disqualified for failing to adhere to eligibility guidelines.

The junior Flames started the competition with a 6-2 loss to Zambia before another humiliating 7-1 defeat to Angola.

Malawi went on to draw 2-2 with South Africa before losing 2-1 to Angola in the third-place play-offs.

The junior Flames last won the competition when it was hosted on home soil in 2001.

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