Malawi has for the first time in three years failed to make it to the semi-finals of the Cosafa Under-17 Championship despite a 1-0 victory over e-Swatini yesterday at Stade Anjalay in Mauritius.
After a 1-0 loss to Angola in the opening match and a resurrection in their second fixture in which they thrashed the Zimbabwe 5-0, the Junior Flames needed to overcome e-Swatini at least 2-0 to make it as best runners-up.
But they only managed to score a goal from Lovemore Mbeta, paving way for Mauritius to qualify for the semi-finals in which they will meet South Africa.
Malawi has finished as Group A runners up. The Junior Flames tied with Mauritius at six points as well as goal difference (GD).
But the hosts have qualified since they have scored seven goals (GF).
Angola also made to the semi-finals as Group C leaders after beating Zimbabwe 2-1 and they meet Namibia in the semi-finals.
Malawi won bronze in 2016 and 2017 Cosafa Under-17 Championship both played in Mauritius.
They lost to Namibia on penalties in 2016 semis, but went on to collect the bronze medal as they beat East African guests Kenya 2-0.
In 2017, they went down 2-0 to eventual champions Zambia but brought back home bronze as they beat South Africa 2-1 in the play-off.
However, despite Malawi’s exit, analysts have commended the youthful team which has replaced most of the stars promoted to the Under-20 team.
George Chiusiwa said winning two games and losing one was an achievement since most of the players were making their debut international tournament.
“It’s still a good result for we are developing these boys. For me, I have no reason to worry as many of the boys were new in this squad,” he said.
Coach DeKlerk Msakakuona said he was proud of his charges despite failing to qualify for the semi-finals.
“This is a new squad. This was the first tournament for most of the players. I think they have achieved enough by their standards,” he said.
Leader of delegation James Mwenda, who is Football Association of Malawi (FAM) vice-president, also shared the same sentiments.
“These boys will be a force to reckon with next year,” he said.