The Flames face Morocco’s Atlas Lions this afternoon at the Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in a dead-rubber 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)qualifier that will be the last senior national team engagement before expatriate coach Ronny van Geneugden’s (RVG) two-year contract expires.
However, despite having an unimpressive record of eight losses, 10 draws and two wins, the Belgian yesterday said his main interest is not necessarily in winning the Group B qualifier, but rather giving up-and-coming players international exposure.
RVG made the statement when The Nation sought his take on the significance of the encounter, considering that the Flames were already booted out of the qualifiers that saw them 0-3 to the Atlas Lions in the first leg.
“We will use the Morocco game to give some young players a chance to gain international exposure. Morocco is one of the top teams in the world. It was one of the revelations at the 2018 Russia Fifa World Cup not in terms of results, but performance. This game will provide a big opportunity for our boys,” he said.
“When you look at the Flames’ history, check the number of international games the players that are in the squad have featured in their youth. I do not think they have enough international experience, hence the need to let them play against a big team such as Morocco.”
The 50-year-old has called up six foreign-based players for the Morocco clash, namely Yamikani Chester (USA), Frank Gabadinho Mhango and Gerald Phiri Jnr (South Africa), John ‘CJ’ Banda, Stain Davie and Binwell Katinji (Mozambique) but he said most of them still need more international exposure as Banda is the only one with vast international experience.
When reminded that this afternoon’s match would be his last senior national team assignment before his contract expires and he would be expected to win, the coach said: “That is not an issue”.
He said he is happy to have completed the process of “building Malawi’s future national football team.”
“Like I told everybody, and we decided with FAM [Football Association of Malawi], the future of the Flames will start in 2019 preparing for the next generation of the outfit through the combination of the Under-23 players and the young senior team players. Now, we have a total of at least 48 players, which we can say is the future Flames,” RVG said.
But soccer analyst George Kaudza Masina said the Morocco encounter is a must-win for RVG considering that his contract is coming to an end.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu and vice-president James Mwenda had not yet responded to The Nation questionnaire on their expectation from the game at press time.
Recently, Mwenda, who is also FAM technical sub-committee chairperson, said they agreed to scrutinise RVG’s overall performance this month.