It’s over! For the umpteenth time, the Flames yesterday broke the hearts of 17 million Malawians when they crushed out of Cosafa Castle Cup.
A 0-1 loss to Lesotho’s Likuena at Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, Namibia confirmed their fate and sadly, they will not even defend the Plate they won last year following their failure to qualify for the last eight.
Jane Thaba-Ntso headed home the lone goal at the backpost in the 83rd minute after the defence left the lethal striker unmarked.
Likuena are now through to the quarter-finals where they will face South Africa’s Bafana Bafana.
Fate once again left Malawi in the cold after the loss to a team ranked 155 on Fifa placings—19 places below the Flames.
The defeat to Lesotho was the first in 36 years and ended Malawi’s dominance. Before yesterday’s match the Flames had never lost to the Basotho in a competitive match.
The last time the Likuena beat Malawi was in 1979 in an international friendly which they won 2-1.
The best they had achieved since 1979 is a draw in 1995 in an African Cup of Nations (Afcon) match.
The two sides met in 2005 and 2008 Cosafa Cup with Malawi winning both encounters.
Coach Ernest Mtawali, perhaps obsessed with the mentality that ‘you don’t change a winning side, maintained tired legs of the same team that beat Angola and Mauritius, despite signs of fatigue clearly visible in some players.
Captain Chiukepo Msowoya, who once again appeared out of sorts, was replaced by Muhammad Sulumba while John Banda came in for Isaac Kaliyati. Peter Wadabwa was also thrown into service for Gerald Phiri Jnr as desperation took its toll on the Flames.
This did not yield results as Likuena took advantage of Malawi’s weaknesses up front and lack of coordination between defenders to claim a historic victory.
After the game Mtawali said the players did not play to instruction.
“I am very disappointed. We had our game plan but it did not work,” he said.—Story powered by Malawian Airlines