Malawi Under-17 national team are favourites to win the ongoing Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Championship alongside Zambia, according to Junior Flames assistant coach Peter Mponda.
The former Flames’ skipper made the statement ahead of today’s Group A encounter against Zimbabwe at Stade St Francois Xavier in Mauritius following a comfortable 2-0 victory over Botswana in their opening match on Saturday, thanks to goals from Chinsinsi Maonga and Tathedwa Willard.
The Junior Flames lead the four-team group A with three points on better goal difference against second-placed and hosts Mauritius, who beat Zimbabwe 1-0 on Saturday.
“As it stands, we are regarded as favourites to win the competition along with Zambia, who thumped Madagascar 7-1 in group-B last weekend,” he said.
“However, we will not sit on our laurels ahead of our game against Zimbabwe; we will fight tooth and nail to earn a successive win and increase our chances of qualifying for the semi-finals. The best two teams from each group will make it into the last-four stage.”
With seemingly shoddy preparations that saw them flying to Mauritius without playing a single international friendly and being in camp for only three weeks, critics gave the Junior Flames no chance of doing well at Cosafa. But the win in the opener, which was spiced up by the man-of-the-match accolade to midfielder Auspicious Kadzongola, seems to prove otherwise.
Mponda hinted at maintaining the first XI which featured against Botswana.
“The first win has given the boys confidence ahead of our next game. They now know that our destiny lies in their hands. If nothing happens in the next few hours, our line up will be the same,” he said.
But Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu said winning the competition would be a mere bonus for the junior national team as the main purpose of participation is to instil a fighting spirit in the youngsters so as to grow with a winning mentality.
The Malawi Under-17 team, which will face Mauritius in their final group match on Wednesday, would like to improve on their last year’s achievement of winning bronze. The Junior Flames last won the championship in 2001 as hosts. n