A day after watching the Flames ease past Chad 2-0 at the Kamuzu Stadium last month, football friend Mapopa Msukwa made an interesting technical observation at the Kamuzu Stadium that Malawi defence was disciplined.
The defence, Msukwa noted, was immobile, hence minimised the risks of counterattacks in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying round first leg.
Come last weekend, Flames striker Atusaye Nyondo was quoted as having blamed the second leg 3-1 loss in Chad to “defending too deep.”
For once, I heard something tactically substantial instead of the usual empty “midfield sinalibwino.”
Around 2007, former Flames’ coach Stephen Constantine also made a similar observation while watching the game between Admarc Tigers’ game against Escom United at the now Surestream Stadium in Blantyre.
Constantine was surprised that despite acres of space in front of him while his team attacked, a Tigers’ ‘keeper was stationed on the goal-line.
Since then, I have observed that most local clubs and national teams instinctively defend too deep.
In Chad, while the Flames lacked the energy, pace and drive to challenge the faster and fitter hosts, some goals could have been avoided if Malawi had deployed a high defensive line.
The challenge with defending deep is that you need strong team work ethic. Forwards need to retain possession upfront and slow the tempo of the game down, writes FourFourTwo magazine of the United Kingdom.
It was clear that, save for few players such as Gabadinho Mhango, Malawi lacked players with energy.
It took a single defensive lapse to expose goalkeeper Charles Swini. This is a general Malawi tactical dilemma.
And not that defending too deep is bad in itself. Its execution is. If the defence sits deep, the obvious advantage is that the opposition is starved of attacking space.
“Often you’ll defend deep when you’re playing against a side packed with pace because, purely and simply, you don’t want huge amounts of space behind you for the attacking side to run into,” FourFourTwo added.
Time has come for FAM technical department to explore finer details of the game such as suitable Malawi football philosophy and establish whether defending deep advantages or disadvantages us.