Malawi Queens coach Griffin ‘Zagalo’ Saenda believes his charges are strong enough to beat New Zealand’s Silver Ferns this morning as they start their 2019 Netball World Cup campaign in Liverpool, England.
The Queens have an uphill task to regain a top-six ranking after dropping three steps to ninth on the latest International Netball Federation (INF) World Rankings and losing automatic qualification to prestigious international events.
A win against fourth-ranked Silver Ferns in pool B would be a big boost to their revival mission and Saenda yesterday said they register another victory against their bigger opponents for the second time after their historic 57-53 win during last year’s Commonwealth Games.
During the last World Cup in 2015, the two sides were also in the same group and Malawi lost 49-57 in the preliminary round.
The Queens tuned up for this year’s competition with three test matches in Wales, where they lost to their 12th-ranked hosts and narrowly triumphed 53-52 against 10th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago.
They also triumphed 53-37 over eighth-placed Northern Ireland.
“The recent test matches have helped us a lot to tighten the loose ends after coming to England without strength-testing matches and after just over a week of camping. We are now ready for the challenge,” he said.
Saenda added that the fact that United Kingdom-based shooter Joyce Mvula has passed a late fitness test from a knee injury, is also a boost considering that they are already missing the services of another top-notch shooter Australia-based Mwawi Kumwenda.
But former Queens captain Emmie Waya-Chongwe observed that the team’s success depends on combinations the technical panel will come up with as well as the players’ determination to fight for the nation.
“Unlike the recent test matches, the World Cup is a different event altogether and New Zealand is a match stronger side than any side the Queens played against recently,” she said.
“In the first line up we need to have players that are willing to give their all and the technical panel needs to be very careful with the first line up; we will only win this game through experience and excellent interceptions.”