Poor preparations have once again plagued Malawi national football team ahead of next month’s 2019 Afcon qualifiers against Africa’s super powers Morocco and Cameroon.
Just like the junior sides—Under-17 and Under-20—who last month went for crucial matches without adequate preparations and ended up being booted out, the Flames are also sailing in the same waters.
But Football Association of Malawi (FAM) insists that taking part in such competitions is worthwhile despite the signs that the team cannot succeed.
Under coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG), who has nothing to show for over a year, the Flames are yet to go into camp and FAM’s head of technical committee James Mwenda on Wednesday disclosed there are no plans to play a friendly match.
The national team has also not played any strength-testing match since May when they were booted out of Cosafa Cup in South Africa without winning a match.
Soccer analysts have since accused FAM of lacking a vision.
Former Under-20 coach Patrick Kulemeka said he has not seen enough from the Flames and coach RVG to have confidence that the team will beat Morocco or Cameroon.
“As a Malawian, it is always my wish to see the team progressing, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Our preparations have been shoddy because after Cosafa Cup we have been dormant,” he said.
During the Cosafa Cup, Malawi, with a bulk of local players, did not win any match and only managed a goal in three matches.
Kulemeka said he did not draw any positives from Cosafa Cup to believe that Malawi can beat Morocco and Cameroon.
“This team has been very inconsistent and the coach does not have a starting eleven as he always uses a different line-up in every match. That in itself is a sign of poor preparations,” he said.
Another analyst Felix Ngamanya Sapao dismissed Malawi’s chances, saying the preparations have not groomed Malawians to the level of Morocco and Cameroon.
“We don’t have the quality to compete with those two. The best we can do is to use these qualifiers to groom players that can take charge of the 2021 Afcon qualification bid,” he said.
Morocco played at the recent World Cup in Russia while Cameroon are the Afcon defending champions and Sapao said these achievements are a clear indication that Malawi is far much behind.
But Mwenda, who is also FAM vice-president, launched a passionate defence saying they always prepare thoroughly.
“The Under-20 played some friendly matches before the qualifiers but we were just unlucky not to reach the Afcon finals. The senior Flames will start camping soon. So a month will be enough to prepare for Morocco,” he said.
Asked if he thinks Malawi can qualify for the finals he said: “We know Morocco is a top team so is Cameroon. But I believe that we can make it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Flames captain Limbikani Mzava has said though he has reservations on the preparations, he believes that the Flames can stand a chance of qualification if more experienced players are called up.
“Preparations will not be enough. That’s the reality; but if we can add some experienced players then we could be up for the battle. Much as we are building a team, this is not a development competition,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Malawi is currently second in group B with three points after it beat Comoros 1-0 in the opening game. Cameroon, who will host the finals, lead the table with three points as well.
The group winner will qualify for the finals but, according to Confederation of African Football (CAF), if Cameroon wins the group, the team that will finish second will automatically qualify since Cameroon already have a place as hosts.
Poor preparations have been blamed for Malawi national teams’ poor performances.
The Under-20 last month failed to qualify for the Afcon finals while the Under-17 also suffered early elimination at the Cosafa Cup in Mauritius.
RVG, who has been involved in all the national teams assignments, said he would only comment on the national team Afcon preparations until he meets FAM executive committee.