Malawi Under-17 national football team coach Deklerk Msakakuona says his charges are determined to beat defending champions Zambia this afternoon in a crucial Cosafa Youth Championship tie that could determine their fate in this campaign.
The match kicks off at 3.30pm at Galvandale Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The hosts face Angola in the other round-robin match later today.
A win today, will boost Malawi’s chances of qualifying for the final on Sunday and an automatic ticket to the Under-17 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Morocco next year.
Said Msakakuona: “We are looking forward to get a positive result against Zambia. That will be the best way for us to get into the final.
“The group looks open. If we can get a good result tomorrow [today] against Zambia, we can cruise to the final and qualify for the Afcon finals.”
He added that they will do their best to prepare the players psychologically considering that “they are young boys, who are getting international exposure for the first time, but they are improving with every passing game”.
Malawi are second on the four-team log-table with a point while South Africa are third also with a point. Zambia, who beat bottom-placed Angola 2-1 on Sunday, lead the pack on three points.
Nevertheless, Zambia coach George Chilufya was quoted by Cosafa website www.cosafa.com as having said that his team seeks to retain the title they won in Malawi 12 months ago “and winning this afternoon’s match is vital to this campaign”.
A win for the Junior Flames could also end Zambia’s dominance over the Junior Flames in the regional showpiece.
Malawi last beat Zambia 5-4 in the semi-finals when Malawi hosted and won the competition in 2001.
In their last three meetings, Zambia beat Malawi twice. They won 3-2 in group stages last year and 1-0 in a third-place play-off in 2007. They drew the other match one-all in the 2007 group stages.
Zambia are also superior in terms of Cosafa Under-17 titles as they have two against Malawi’s one.
The imminent encounter this afternoon comes two days after the Malawi Under-17 settled for a two-all draw against hosts South Africa’s Amajimbos in their first round-robin match of the restructured tournament, which now has four teams following the disqualification of Botswana, Comoros, Zimbabwe and e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland) for fielding over aged players.