The 2015 started with questions still lingering on the performance of the Flames coaches Young Chimodzi and Jack Chamangwana following a botched up Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
The Flames’ next assignment was 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group L qualifiers in which the Flames were pitted against Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Guinea.
But before the qualifiers, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) felt the 2015 Cosafa Cup in South Africa in May would be the perfect tune-up for the Afcon assignments.
However, the team could not be idle and FAM organised an international friendly against Tanzania in March which ended in a one-all draw with Esau Kanyenda on target for the Flames.
Two months later, the Flames travelled to Zambia where they lost to a second string Chipolopolo side 2-0 in another strength testing match.
Next on the calendar was the Cosafa Cup in Rustenburg and the Flames left early for the tournament with the aim of playing a training match against South Africa.
The Flames lost 2-1 to a Bafana side that had mostly Under-23 player.
Coach Chimodzi made a couple of changes to the team blending up-and-coming players like Muhamad Sulumba, Gerald Phiri Jnr with regular John Banda and Micium Mhone.
The Flames looked poised to beat Mozambique Mambas in the quarterfinals of the Cosafa Cup and make it to the semi-finals for the first time since 2003.
But the Flames late goals jinx came to haunt the team scoring two own goals with one coming in the last minute of game to give away a 2-1 lead.
The team went on to lose in the penalties in one of the most heartbreaking Flames defeats of the recent times.
However, the team recovered and produced a good show to hold South Africa to a 0-0 draw and beat the hosts on post-match penalties in the semi-final of the Plate Section.
A meet with neighbours Zambia followed in the final of the Plate Section and a lucky goal from Zicco Mkanda gave the Flames the Cosafa Plate.
Back home the Flames’ diehards celebrated like they had won the Africa Cup of Nations lining up the streets to have a view of the Plate.
No-one could blame them considering it had been decades since Malawi won something similar to the Plate.
But despite Malawi winning the Cosafa Plate, pressure was mounting on coach Chimodzi.
In fact, reports indicated that he threw in the towel at Cosafa Cup after Malawi’s dramatic loss to Mozambique in the quarterfinals only to reverse the decision after he was persuaded by FAM officials.
After the Cosafa, it was time to turn to real action against Zimbabwe in the Afcon qualifiers.
FAM organised the last strength testing match against Egypt June 8 which the Flames lost 2-1.
But after the Cosafa Plate success and Zimbabwe’s administrative and preparations woes that saw the team travelling by road and arriving on the day of the match, hope was high that Malawi would carry the day.
But alas! The Flames lost 2-1 at home on June 13.
K110 million had gone down the drain just to enable the team play friendly games to prepare for game against Zimbabwe.
FAM called for an emergency executive committee meeting which decided to relieve Chimodzi and Chamangwana of their duties.
FAM then appointed Under-20 coach Ernest Mtawali as a caretaker coach to lead the Flames in the Independence Celebrations match against Uganda on July 6 which Malawi won 1-0.
The same month, the 2018 World Cup draw pitted Malawi against Tanzania in the second round of the preliminary stage in which two-legged games would be played in October.
A month later Mtawali was offered a one-year contract with Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan as his assistant.
Mtawali roped in more up-and-coming players like Stanley Sanudi, Isaac Kaliyati, Yamikani Chester , Miracle Gabeya and Brighton Munthali-all Under-20 graduates-dropping veterans with the most shocking surprising exclusion being of captain Joseph Kamwendo, his deputy Lucky Malata, Atusaye Nyondo Esau Kanyenda and Robin Ngalande.
His first competitive assignment was against Swaziland Afcon qualifier on September 6.
After the disappointing loss to Zimbabwe, the new-look Flames looked poised to collect maximum points only to allow the hosts to force a 2-2 draw with Gerald Phiri and Chiukepo Msowoya on target.
The coach’s attention now shifted to the World Cup qualifier against Tanzania.
But the Flames disappointed again losing 2-0 to the host in Tanzania.
The result meant Malawi needed to beat Taifa Stars at least 3-0 to proceed to the next stage. The Flames only managed a 1-0 win at Kamuzu Stadium to bow out of the competition.
Relentless FAM still hoped for a miracle for the Flames and managed to convince Cecafa to invite Malawi as a guest team at the Senior Challenge Cup in Ethiopia.
The Flames were pitted against Djibouti, South Sudan and Sudan-all way below the Flames on the Fifa rankings. Mtawali chalked two wins in the first two group matches against Sudan and Djibouti to qualify for the semifinals.
But a miscalculated move to change the squad in the last group game against South Sudan, backfired as Malawi lost the game and ended up playing Group B winners and favourites Uganda.
The Cranes had no trouble dismissing Malawi 2-0 on their way to the cup victory. This concluded once again another disappointing year for the Flames having played 15 games, lost seven, won six and drew two.
In terms of Fifa ranking the Flames started the year on position 88 and they have wrapped up the year on position 109 with an average of 100. n