The Flames’ 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification hopes were shattered yesterday following their 2-0 loss to Algeria in front of a distressed home crowd at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The expectation was that the Flames would rewrite the 2010 Afcon fairy tale when they caused a major upset with a 3-0 triumph over the Algerians, but it was not to be and the huge turnout left the stadium with their heads hanged in disappointment.
It was a game that exposed the gulf in class in terms of tactics and techniques. While the Flames thrilled the home fans with their sweet passing game, it was the visitors who did it to perfection, making use of just two out of their three clear chances.
They got their first goal nine minutes into the game when towering defender Rafiq Halliche swung upfield to plant home Yacine Brahime’s well curled corner kick after it was flicked into his path by Carl Medjani and the Flames defence was left flat-footed.
For the better part of the second-half, the Flames worked their possession every way, across the sunlit pitch, but the currency of football is about scoring goals and it all worked to the visitors’ plan.
In the 64th minute, captain Joseph Kamwendo’s effort was denied by the post and two minutes later, substitute Gastin Simkonda, who came in for Atusaye Nyondo, missed from close range, so did Chiukepo Msowoya as desperation took its toll for the Flames.
And as some fans trooped out of the stadium in frustration, the Algerians, who are ranked the continent’s best side by world football governing body Fifa, worsened the situation when they struck the second goal in the third minute of injury time.
Eddine Djamel Mesbah’s effort was deflected by defender Limbikani Mzava beating goalkeeper McDonald Harawa on the near post. It was a goal that exposed the Flames defensive frailties.
Coach Young Chimodzi said if the Flames were to have any realistic expectations of qualifying for their third appearance at the African safari, then they needed to win all their home matches, but sadly it did not work according to script yesterday and he was forced to change his tune.
“It is a big disappointment, we gave the Algerians too much respect in the first-half, but we played with a renewed purpose in the second-half,” said Chimodzi.
“But we still have chances of qualifying. If we can get a draw in Algeria on Wednesday then we can revive our chances,” said Chimodzi.
Algeria top the group with nine points from three games. Mali, who are on second position, were taking on Ethiopia last night. n