Malawi Women’s National Football Team, the Scorchers, will be hoping to build from their Cosafa Women’s Championship good run when they host Zambia’s Copper Queens this afternoon in a 2022 Women’s Afcon first round, first leg qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
However, the Scorchers will have to do without home support as Football Association of Malawi (FAM) says by the time government eased the restrictions to allow fans, the deadline set by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had already passed.
Straight from the regional tournament where they finished as runners up for the first time after losing to guests Tanzania’s Twiga Stars 1-0 in the final, the Scorchers now have set their sights on maiden qualification for the continental showpiece.
It is a match that pits two neighbours and there is no love lost between them if statistics from previous encounters are anything to go by.
The two teams last met at last year’s Cosafa Championship where Malawi won 1-0.
But the last time Malawi participated in Women’s Afcon in 2012, the Coppers Queens ransacked the Scorchers 9-4 on aggregate.
Though the Scorchers will be without China-based Chawinga sisters—Tabitha and Temwa—due to travel restrictions, they have learnt to rely on team-spirit than individuals as witnessed at the regional tournament.
Scorchers coach McNelbert Kazuwa said the team’s remarkable run at Cosafa Women’s Championship has instilled confidence in the players as they now have self-belief.
He said: “The Cosafa experience was a very good exposure to most of the players. They learnt to withstand pressure. But this one is a different game. We didn’t rest because we know it is going to be tough.
“We have played Zambia before and it’s never easy. But we are ready for them.”
Zambia coach Brice Mwape said they know Malawi has improved, which makes the game tough.
He said: “Looking at the way Malawi performed at the Cosafa Women’s Championship, it won’t be easy.”
The Copper Queens coach said playing away to Malawi means they have to approach the game cautiously, especially the first 20 minutes.
“If we see that we can open up, we will try to give instructions to the players and if all goes well, we will try and go for an early goal so that we finish the game here in Malawi,” he said.
Mwape said the return of players that were not able to join the team at Cosafa Women’s Championship is a big boost for the team.
However, just like the Scorchers, Zambia will also miss foreign-based players such as Barbara Banda, who also plays in China, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“But we have capable players who can replace them and we still believe in the junior players. This is their time to show that they can also deliver,” he said.
The winner between Scorchers and Copper Queens will face the winner between Tanzania and Namibia in the next round.