Flames coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) says he will return to Cosafa Cup next month more prepared as the Flames face last year’s opponents Angola and Mauritius in Group B.
Malawi has been pooled against the two sides in Group B which also has Botswana, following a draw held yesterday in South Africa.
The other group has Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar and Mozambique.
Commenting on the draw yesterday, RVG said he now has a better understanding of the competition after his disappointing debut last year.
Malawi lost 2-0 to guests Tanzania before goalless draws against Angola and Mauritius to bow out of the competition without scoring a goal.
RVG said: “I think now I have a better understanding of the tournament and the teams participating. Last year, Tanzania surprised us. We ended up drawing the remaining two games against Mauritius and Angola in which we did not concede. This time we know how Mauritius and Angola play. As for Botswana, it will be my first time playing their senior team and I don’t know much about them. But we will be ready for them.”
The winner in each group will make it to the quarter-finals where they will meet seeded teams Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland.
On whether Malawi can make it this time, RVG said the Flames have the clout.
“It is difficult to say which team is the favourite in this group. But what is important is to win the first match. Last year, I took players that were at the tournament for the first time and it was a bit tough for them. But now the players have been together for a year. I think we should be able to compete strongly,” he said.
The tournament will be held in Limpopo Province from May 27 to June 9. Malawi has never won the Cosafa Cup. The closest they got was winning the Plate Section of the 2015 edition after defeating Zambia 1-0 in the final.
The Flames will regroup on May 17 and RVG said he would love to have a full squad.
“Unfortunately, the tournament is not on Fifa calendar dates, so we will see which foreign-based players will be available. Hopefully, we may have foreign-based players since the South Africa Premier Soccer League will be off-season. As for Mozambique and Zambia leagues, I am not sure if they will break for the Cosafa Cup like they did in the past, ”he said.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said while the Cosafa Cup will be used to tune-up for African Cup of Nations (Afcon), the Flames should aim for results that can motivate the team.
He said: “Mind you our opponents will be at the Russia World Cup and they will be fully-ripped as they return from that competition. We also need to be in high spirits when returning from the Cosafa Cup. Coming back without scoring a goal or being booted out in the group stage is definitely not motivating at all.”