The Flames will head to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon tomorrow having played just one friendly match against Comoros following the cancellation of another strength-testing match against Mali.
The match was rescheduled for today in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after failing to take place last Thursday.
But Football Association of Malawi (FAM) competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka said the match has been postponed because a number of Eagles’ players have registered positive for Covid-19.
He also said a second friendly match against Comoros has also fallen through.
Said Zakazaka: “We have been informed by those organising the Mali friendly that it won’t take place due to Covid-19 rising cases in Mali camp.
“There was also a possibility of a second friendly match against Comoros, but that too won’t materialise.
“This means last Friday’s friendly match against Comoros is the only build-up match that the Flames have played ahead of the Afcon finals.”
Flames interim coach Marian Mario Marinica said in a FAM presser that another friendly match could have given him a chance for further assessment of his charges ahead of the continental showpiece.
He said: “It is unfortunate that we could not play two friendly matches as scheduled. Covid has brought several challenges and there is little we can do about it.
“So, we’ll have to rely on the performance during training sessions as well as the friendly match we had against Comoros.”
Football analyst Kelvin Moyo said the situation is a setback for Marinica as he will not have enough time to assess his charges.
“He also won’t have a chance to try out different combinations and formations as per his philosophy,” he said.
Ironically, Malawi’s Group B opponents Zimbabwe’s Warriors are also in the same predicament as their match against Cameroon has been called off.
Zimbabwe, who faced Sudan on Sunday, were scheduled to face the Afcon hosts on Monday, but the Warriors team manager Wellingtone Mpandare was quoted by The Herald newspaper of Zimbabwe confirming the cancellation of the match.
“That game is no longer possible. Cameroon wanted to use the match venue for the actual tournament’s opening game, but CAF [Confederation of African Football] advised that the venue is not available for use by any team five days before the tournament in line with the competition’s rules, “ he said.
Flames other Group B opponents are Senegal’s Lions of Teranga and Guinea’s Syli Nationale.
The tournament kicks off this Sunday and Malawi will play their first match on Monday against Guinea. Their second match will be against Zimbabwe on January 14 before lining up against Senegal on January 18.
Twenty-four teams qualified for the African safari and they have been divided into six groups of four teams each.
The top two teams from each group plus the four best runners-up will qualify for the next round.