Malawi national women’s football team, the Scorchers, are confident that they can beat hosts and defending champions South Africa’s Banyana Banyana in their opening match today at the 2022 Cosafa Women’s Championship.
Head coach Andrew Chikhosi said the Scorchers are hoping to ride on the spirit of an underdog which at times can cause an upset.
In an interview, he said: “In football anything can happen. I have been telling the girls that they just need self-belief. We can beat South Africa.
“Preparations have been going on well and the girls are in good shape. We just need to prepare the girls mentally now.”
The Scorchers will be playing without China-based Chawinga sisters Temwa and Tabitha against a star studded Banyana side led by captain Janine van Wyk.
But Chikhosi said the Scorchers are capable of producing results without the two stars.
He said: “In 2019 we played against South Africa without Temwa and Tabitha. We were leading 1-0 at half time and only conceded two goals towards the end of the game. The girls know that we can do that again. If we can stick to our game plan I am sure we can beat them.”
The Scorchers last played a competitive match at the last edition while their counterparts are just returning from Nigeria where they won Aisha Buhari Cup after beating hoists Nigeria 4-2.
Banyana coach Desiree Ellis said she will build from the Nigeria experience at the regional tournament.
She said: “Tomorrow is a new focus, it is the Cosafa Women’s Championship, and we will take the lessons we have taught there, especially the players we have going to the Cosafa tournament, to grow that group again.
“We showed at last year’s Cosafa that the players that have come through needed to be tested and I think we have got the mix in this tournament of the youth and experience.”
The two sides have met three times in the last three editions of the competition and Malawi has played second fiddle.
In 2018, South Africa humiliated Malawi’s Scorchers 6-0 in the group stage of the regional competition.
In 2019, the two sides were in the same group and Banyana Banyana won 3-1.
In 2020 the two sides clashed in the semi-finals of the competition and the hosts won 6-2 in an eight-goal thriller, shattering Malawi’s dream of a maiden final spot.
The Scorchers campaign was smooth as they emerged as Group B winners following clinical 9-0 and 1-0 victories over Lesotho and Zambia, respectively only for Banyana to spoil the party.
The Scorchers were reduced to 10 players after goalkeeper Samir Amido was given marching orders for a red card just 20 minutes into the encounter.
While Malawi’s Scorchers are still searching for a maiden final, South Africa won the first three editions of the regional showpiece competition in 2002, 2006 and 2008, before Zimbabwe claimed victory on home soil in 2011.
The tournament had a brief hiatus until it was restarted in 2017 and has been played annually since, with South Africa victorious on each occasion.
The 12 teams have been split into three groups each containing four teams. They play each other in a round-robin format, earning three points for a win and one for a draw.
Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals.
The semi-final line-up is provisionally the winner of Group A to play the best-placed runner-up, and the winners of Groups B and C to clash.
However, if the best runner-up is also from Group A, organisers can change the line-up to ensure the two teams don’t meet twice in quick succession.
There will be a third-place play-off for the losing semi-finalists this season, with this game having dropped off the fixture list in 2020.