Malawi needs a miracle to make it to the CAF Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after yesterday’s 6-2 demolition by Zambia at the Cosafa Under-17 Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Following a change in the competition’s format due to the disqualification of four teams on age cheating charges, Malawi needed to win two matches out of three against South Africa, Zambia and Angola to make it to the Cosafa Championship final and punch a ticket to Morocco Under-17 Afcon finals next year.
But the DeKlerk Msakakuona-led junior Flames have so far collected only a point from two matches after a 2-2 draw against South Africa in the first round robin match played on Sunday.
The result means Zambia have six points and top the table while South Africa, who were 2-1 winners over Angola in an earlier match yesterday, are second with four points.
Malawi face bottom placed Angola in the last match while South Africa and Zambia clash in the other fixture.
With the top team playing the second-placed team in the tournament’s final Malawi’s chances of making it are merely mathematical.
Malawi need to beat Angola comprehensively and hope that Zambia do them a favour by edging out the hosts South Africa.
But Msakakuona still believes, in cold comfort, that his charges can pull a surprise and make it to the final and eventually, the Under-17 Afcon.
“This is football and anything can happen,” the coach said in post-match interview with Cosafa Television.
Malawi paid dearly for their failure to play with a purpose. Zambia striker Joseph Banda punished Malawi, scoring after 11 minutes before Rickson Ng’ambi added the second on the 16th minute.
Banda made it 3-0 on the dot of half-time taking advantage of Malawi’s poor coordination at the back.
While Malawi were still recovering from the 3-0 embarrassing first-half result, soon after resumption Zambia stunned the junior Flames with two quick goals from Charles Mumba in the 46th minute and Banda three minutes later, as Malawi trailed 5-0.
By the time the Junior Flames were recovering from the five-goal deficit, it was too late to come back into the game.
Though Malawi reduced the deficit through striker Chifundo Mphasi’s brace in the 58th and 72nd minutes, the damage had already been done by the neighbours.
In fact, Teddy Khumalo scored the sixth in the 82nd minute to end Malawi’s hopes of pulling a surprise in the eight-goal thriller.
Malawi finished the match a player less after defender Cliff Mbewe was given marching orders following a second yellow card following tackle on Khumalo.
Football Association of Malawi youth and technical subcommittee chairperson Tiya Somba-Banda , who is with the team in South Africa, conceded that Zambia were the better side.
He said: “We have lost because tactically we were not good.”