The Malawi Under-17 football team yesterday thumped Zimbabwe 5-0 to qualify for the semi-finals of the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Youth Championship in Mauritius with a game to play in group stages.
The Junior Flames will take on hosts Mauritius in their last group A match tomorrow but they are already guaranteed the last-four slot because they will not fall from the group’s top-two positions required for the knockout stage.
A brace from man-of-the-match Chinsinsi Maonga alongside strikes by Patrick Mwaungulu, Chikondi Mbeta and Franklin Titani ensured that Malawi topped their group with six-points from two-straight wins as they beat Botswana 2-0 in their opener last weekend.
Maonga, who is Malawi’s second player to win the man-of-the-match award at the tournament after Auspisciuos Kadzongola, is also chasing the golden boot accolade, as he has so far notched three goals following the first goal he scored against Botswana.
If they beat Mauritius or settle for a draw, the Junior Flames will stay at the summit of group A and face group B’s second placed outfit South Africa’s Amajimbos in the semis. But once they lose the match, they would finish second and will be up against fellow favourites of the contest and group B leaders Zambia’s Young Chipolopolo.
Zambia, who routed Madagascar 7-1 in their opening game, topped group B with six points from straight wins on Sunday after beating South Africa 3-2 in their second group clash.
“The win has given the boys confidence ahead of our last group match against Mauritius,” said Junior Flames’ assistant coach Peter Mponda yesterday.
“Of course, we have already qualified for the semis, but we will not take our foot off the peddle. We are determined to finish as group winners and we will maintain the momentum. We are taking one game at a time.”
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu hailed the youngsters for making the country proud.
“The team has done us proud. This is a highly talented squad and we are hoping that they will get stronger and stronger with each game. It is exceptional to win with such a high goal score-margin against a tougher opposition like Zimbabwe. This should give the team confidence to go the extra mile,” he said.
Critics doubted the team’s ability to do well at the competition considering that the squad travelled to Mauritius without playing any international friendly match and with at least nine players chopped from the list after failing age test. However, the results seem to prove otherwise. n