Malawi is all but out of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after a shocking 1-2 loss to Guinea that left fans wondering what curse is upon the Flames.
But Guinea assistant coach Laurent Hatton has revealed that the West Africans only took advantage of the Flames’ indecisiveness to sucker-punch the Ernest Mtawali charges.
Hatton explained how Mtawali’s charges were clueless and teetered between attacking and defending during the match with catastrophic consequences as Guinea came from a goal down to take control of the game.
Hatton said: “The Malawi that we played in Guinea and the one we played today is different. They were much better in Conakry. Today, they were under pressure. They didn’t play to win. They didn’t know whether they should attack or defend. They stayed in between two positions with no purpose.”
The French coach attributed his team’s success to tactical discipline and mental clout.
“The [0-0] result in Guinea was very disappointing, so we wanted to win. The players wanted to prove a point and they worked hard. But the Flames relaxed after the draw,” he said.
Mtawali used a flat defence of Harry Nyirenda, Limbikani Mzava and Stanley Sanudi. He crammed the midfield with Robert Ng’ambi, Chimango Kayira, Isaac Kaliyati, Micium Mhone and John Banda while upfront Chiukepo Msowoya partnered Gabadinho Mhango.
The set up seemed to work as Malawi dominated the midfield battle and claimed the goal when Msoyowa headed in Banda’s set piece.
But Malawi lost concentration just before recess and allowed Guinea striker Lamina Yattara to out-jumped Nyirenda to beat goalkeeper Brighton Munthali.
The loss of concentration is a carbon copy of the Flames loss to Zimbabwe (2-1) in June last year in the Group L opener.
Guinea assistant coach Hatton noted that the equaliser was the turning point of the game.
“A minute before the end of half is a very crucial moment in football. We had a chance to equalise just before half time and we took it. In the second half, Malawi were afraid if our tall players and tried to change the approach. But still they were second on the ball. They made some mistakes and we scored the second goal,” he said.
As frustration took a toll on Mtawali, the coach was unsure of whether to continue attacking or go for a draw as he changed the set up by pulling out Kaliyati for defender Francis Mlimbika. Micium Mhone was replaced by Zicco Mkanda, while Schumaker Kuwali came in for Mhango.
The changes did not yield results as the Flames continued making blunders.
The central midfielders were not sure of their role. The absence of robust wingers rendered the flanks dead.
In the absence of wing-backs, the three defenders were exposed once Malawi players lost possession in the midfield.
On one such occasion, Guinea claimed the second goal.
The midfield crumbled as Guinea launched an attack led by Yattara whose shot forced Munthali to concede a corner.
From that set piece Munthali parried the ball towards Issiaga Sylla’s path to tap in from close range.
Hatton, however, noted that it was also a tough game for the West Africans as well whose players are used to playing on natural grass.
“It’s difficult to adapt in two days. So we decided to play simple football. Use long balls. We did not have to play short passing football. I know it wasn’t good football, but the result is what counts,” he said.
Mtawali agreed with Hatton’s observation that the Flames played below par and lacked tactical discipline.
He said: “We did not even deserve to win or draw in this game. We were just terrible. Look, in Conakry we played with one striker. Things worked perfectly. We were just unfortunate not to score.
“But this time around, we tried to play with three defenders, five midfielders and two strikers so that we should attack more. But it didn’t work. The way we played, we didn’t show any hunger,” he said. n