Malawi national football team, the Flames yesterday delayed Burkina Faso’s 2022 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification after holding the Stallions to a goalless draw at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Stallions needed to collect maximum points to be the first team from Group B to qualify for the final to be hosted by Cameroon in 2022.
But following the draw, the qualification is still open though the Stallions have a better chance of finishing as group winners following Uganda’s 1-0 loss to South Sudan in the other qualifier played yesterday.
Malawi now have four points while Burkina Faso still lead the group with eight points followed by Uganda with seven points while South Sudan are at the bottom of the table with three points.
With two qualifiers left—away to South Sudan and at home against Uganda, Flames coach Meck Mwase still thinks the Flames can punch a ticket to Cameroon.
“I think we still have a chance of making it to the finals. If only we can win our remaining two qualifiers anything can happen,” he said.
Despite missing an opportunity to collect maximum points, Mwase said the team had improved.
“I think it was a much better performance compared to how we played in Ouagadougou.
“We created several scoring opportunities; they also had some chances missed. It was a game which could have gone either way,” he said
But it was the same old story of poor finishing that haunted coach Mwase’s charges.
After a 3-1 drubbing in Ouagadougou last week, the coach made six changes to the squad, relegating goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, Chikoti Chirwa, Yamikani Chester, Chimwemwe Idana, Schumacher Kuwali and Stanley Sanudi who started in Ouagadougou, to the bench.
The coach opted for Ernest Kakhobwe in goals and the Nyasa Big Bullets goalkeeper did not disappont.
Mwase featured five defensive players—Peter Cholopi and Dennis Chembezi in central defence, Precious Sambani and Nixon Nyasulu as full-backs and Charles Petro as holding midfielder.
Nyasulu and Sambani were supposed to operate on the wings to offer support to John CJ Banda and Gerald Phiri Jnr in central midfield.
Mwase also gave Bullets duo of Hassan Kajoke and Peter Banda first team places as wide attackers with Richard Mbulu the only man upfront.
It could be debatable on whether the tactical changes worked as Malawi despite having better scoring opportunities, ended up failing to get the desired outcome—goals.
Nyasulu and Sambani struggled to overlap as they mostly defended trying to contain Burkina Faso’s attacking trio of Bertrand Traore, Lassina Traore and Cyrille Bayala.
With not much crosses getting behind the Burkina Faso defence, Mbulu had to drop deep to support Kajoke and Banda.
Mbulu had four good shots inside the box saved by Burkina Faso goalkeeper Abdul Razak Traole as Malawi pressed for a goal.
The Baroka FC striker was also twice brought down by the goalkeeper in the box but the Djibouti referee Souleiman Ahmed Djamal let the visitors get away with it despite penalty calls from Malawi.
The visitors also had their share of frustration as steady Kakhobwe denied the two Traoles and striker Dramane Nikiena on sevaral occasions.