Malawi’s Flames have been drawn against Zambia’s Chipolopolo, who frustrated their bid to the final in the last edition of the Cosafa Cup in 2019.
It was not the first time for the neighbours to frustrate Malawi’s campaign as they have been the Flames’ nemesis in previous competitions.
In 2019, when the last Cosafa Cup was held, the two sides clashed in the quarter-finals where Malawi gave up a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 on post-match penalties. However, this time the two neighbours will battle it out from the group stages.
Completing Group B are Madagascar and Comoros.
In an interview yesterday, Flames assistant coach Lovemore Fazili welcomed the draw, saying it is now payback time for Zambia.
He said: “We are very happy to be drawn in the same group with Zambia. This is what we have been looking forward to.
“While Zambia is the toughest team in the group, we also have to be very careful with Comoros and Madagascar.”
The assistant coach called for thorough preparations for the tournament which will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa from July 7-18.
In 2019, for the first time since 2015, the Flames made it to the quarter-finals unbeaten.
Flames fairytale story at the tournament held in Durban, started with a 3-0 victory over Seychelles with goals from Gabadinho Mhango, Richard Mbulu and Gerald Phiri Jnr.
The Flames went on to beat Namibia 2-1 before holding Mozambique to a one-all draw to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Malawi beat Comoros in the Plate semi-final, but lost to hosts South Africa in the final.
Fazili said Malawi learned it the hard way after losing to Zambia.
He said\: “We learnt a lot from the mistakes we made in that game. This time we know what to do.
“It’s going to be a do-or-die game. But for us we just have to win it and there will be no excuses.”
Malawi is expected to use the tournament to prepare for the upcoming Qatar World Cup qualifiers and the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
“This will be a very crucial tournament as it will help us to gauge our performance for the two competitions,” said Fazili.
On the Cosafa Cup squad, Fazili said the technical panel will decide who to take to Nelson Mandela Bay.
“But we don’t expect much from professionals since the tournament is not on Fifa calendar; hence, it will be difficult for them to be released by their clubs,” he said.
The draw has pitted six-time winners Zimbabwe in Group C with west African guest nation Senegal as well as Mozambique and Namibia.
Hosts South Africa are in Group A with their neighbours Lesotho, Botswana and E-swatini.
According to a statement from Cosafa, the top team in each group and the best placed runner-up will advance to the semi-finals in what is a change in formation for the tournament this year.
“That means each side is guaranteed three games up to a maximum of five, which will provide vital preparation for those national teams involved in 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers later this year,” reads the statement in part.