Malawi women’s national football team, the Scorchers, get their 2020 Cosafa Women’s Championship campaign underway this afternoon against Lesotho in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, South Africa.
The Scorchers are in Group B, which also includes Zambia’s She-polopolo. Lesotho suffered an 8-0 comprehensive demolition to Zambia in the group’s opening match on Wednesday.
On paper Malawi are odds-on favourites going by past results. At their maiden appearance in the regional showpiece in 2002, the Scorchers beat Lesotho 3-0 to register their first win. They made it a double by the same scoreline during the 2006 tournament, in group stages.
The Scorchers also enjoy a slightly better ranking—145th—two places above their opponents. Malawi’s best finish in the tournament was when they winged into the semis in 2011 while the Basotho have never made it past the group stages.
Malawi are also buoyed by the return of the Chawinga sisters—Tabitha and Temwa—who missed the last two editions due to club commitments.
The presence of the China-based prolific duo—considered among the best on the continent—gives the Scorchers extra boost.
The Scorchers will, therefore, go into this contest with a spring in their step. But such is the beauty of football that it doesn’t always go according to script and Malawi will have to exercise caution.
Malawi coach McNelbert Kazuwa said they are looking forward to a good start despite not playing international friendlies.
“We have had a good response from the girls—both physical and tactical—considering that it’s been a difficult year without club football and we also did not have a chance to play international friendlies.
“But the presence of Temwa and Tabitha has given us a huge boost because they have been active in the Chinese league,” he said.
Apart from the Chawinga sisters, Kazuwa has other options in attack with proven forwards Asimenye Simwaka and Mary Chavinda providing depth.
In goals, both Mercy Sikelo and Samir Amidu provide a safe pair of hands.
In defence, Kazuwa will select from Emily Jossam, Maureen Phiri, Patricia Nyirenda, Ruth Nyirongo, Saliva January and Tionge Phiri.
Zainabu Kapanda, Wezzi Mvula, Salome Vinkhumbo and Sabinah Thom will orchestrate play in midfield.
Prior to the Scorchers’ departure, captain Tabitha spoke about the need for team work.
She said: “It’s not just about me and Temwa alone. It’s about all of us fighting for the cause. It’s about team spirit.
“I believe we can do well if we all do our part and work as a team. We need to win the trophy and bring it home. We can do it if we remain positive and focused.
“It would be great to bring the trophy home and make the nation proud. I want to score goals there and with the help of my teammates, I am confident it will happen.”
On the other hand, Lesotho also have ammunition to deter Malawi’s threat.
The arrival of striker Senate Letsie and midfielder Boitumelo Rabal—who ply their trade in the US—has brought confidence in the squad coached by Lehloenya Nkhasi.
Nkhasi is just three weeks in his new job and his target, according to Lesotho Times, is to reach the knockout stage.
He said: “I want to get to the last four. From there, anything can happen. I don’t want to put myself under pressure, but I don’t want to settle for less.
“I believe in my abilities as a coach and the team we have. I want to instil a winning mentality into the team as well.”
The Scorchers’ next game is against Zambia on Monday. The top teams in the three groups and the best runner-up will qualify for the semis.