What a baptism of fire! Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) has entered football annals as the first Flames coach to return from Cosafa Cup without scoring, let alone registering a win—a new low for Malawi at the regional tournament.
Even RVG’s predecessor Ernest Mtawali must be laughing his lungs out wherever he is.
Mtawali, despite all the ridicule he got after Malawi failed to reach the knockout stage in 2016 following a 1-0 loss to Lesotho, still managed to score four goals in a 3-0 victory over Angola and 1-0 win over Mauritius. He was eventually fired.
Yet at this year’s edition, miserable Flames failed even to beat Mauritius and Angola and settled for drab draws.
But RVG’s most embarrassing moment was a 2-0 loss against Tanzania.
Analyst David Kanyenda noted that the outing was a mixed bag.
He said: “Team selection was somewhat problematic and lacking a bit of experience, especially in the offensive areas. Whilst Cosafa Cup is a developmental tournament, the rookies could have used a bit of guidance from an old hand or two.”
Kanyenda praised RVG for giving a chance to rookies Simeon Singa, Levison Maganizo, Ian Chinyama and Peter Cholopi.
He said: “Defensively, we improved from the opening lacklustre 20 minutes during which we gifted Taifa Stars two goals due to possession turnovers in our own half. We played two matches without conceding—more than three hours of football without conceding is commendable; hence Kakhobwe even won man of the match award.”
RVG boasted in one of the interviews with SuperSport that he was at Cosafa Cup to advertise Malawi’s possession football.
Kanyenda felt this style of play affected the team’s performance.
He said: “Offensively we were the poorest. No goal scored during the entire tournament is totally unacceptable. Jabulani Linje played all the games, but I thought he was slower than a tortoise crawling backwards. He didn’t deserve to start all matches. As well as failing to score, we registered a miserable level of goal attempts.”
Another analyst, Charles Nyirenda, likened RVG’s tactics to giving a wrong treatment to a patient due to a misdiagnosis.
He said: “I insist that our coach should be given videos of the 2010 joint Afcon/World Cup qualifiers i.e. Malawi vs Egypt; Malawi vs Congo DR; Malawi vs Guinea; Malawi vs Ivory Coast and Malawi vs Algeria in Luanda at the Afcon final itself. He will immediately stop talking about Malawi playing a passing game because there was already such football before he came. Further, there weren’t excessive back passes as we see today,” he said.
On the team’s failure to score, Nyirenda said this was a reflection of Super League status.
“That is in line with what we see in the Super League battles where big teams create as low as three feeble scoring chances in the entire match.
“That’s what we have to look at quite closely. But the coach must consult widely to seek alternative views on fielding, training methods, system of play and player development.”
RVG has since said he is working on the defects.
He said: “This is a young team with an average age of 22. It is like building a house; you start with foundation then rise high up to the roof. We are building a game plan which demands that we must start at the back and build attacks going forward while passing, but that has to translate into goals.
“At the moment, this is not happening. But we will work hard to get there. I will have to build a good relationship with the local coaches so that this philosophy is also adopted locally. But I see a good future in these youngsters.” n