Flames are on the verge of exemption from this year’s Cosafa Castle Cup Senior Challenge Cup group stage games after climbing two places on Thursday on the March Fifa/Coca-Cola rankings to position 111.
A day before Fifa announced the latest rankings, the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) chief executive officer Sue Destombes said eight least-ranked Southern African teams will have to battle it out in the preliminary round.
Zambia hosts the 2013 Cosafa Cup from July 6 to 25.
“We have maintained the 2010 format with group-round games consisting of eight lower-ranked teams followed in the second week by knockout-round matches then the semi-final and final. We are still discussing with the sponsor; hence, I am not in a position to disclose the sponsorship package,” Destombes explained in a telephone interview from Cosafa secretariat in South Africa.
The two-time Cosafa finalists Flames, who rose by a step last month, are 30th on the continent and sixth out of 13 Cosafa national teams as of this month.
But any slip from 111 could see Malawi play in the group stages most likely against the current least-ranked Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands.
If the Flames, who face Botswana on March 19 in a friendly then Namibia on March 24 in a World Cup qualifier, gain more ground on the monthly football barometer, they will have the luxury of joining the Cosafa Cup race from the quarter-final phase.
Other possible quarter-final candidates could be the region’s current number one Zambia (36 in the world), second-positioned South Africa (60), third-ranked Angola (95), fourth-placed Zimbabwe (100) and fifth-positioned Mozambique (107).
The six will be joined by the best two teams from the group stages.
On the rankings, Cote d’Ivoire still lead Africa, but are placed 20th out of the 204 ranked world teams.