Junior Flames yesterday wrapped up their miserable show at the Under-20 Cosafa Championship with a 2-0 loss to defending champions Zambia.
The defeat in their final Group B encounter at Wolfson Stadium in Mandela Bay, South Africa, monitored on Cosafa TV means the Malawi Under-20 national football team has failed to break a nine-year semi-final jinx and has missed the 2021 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)showpiece as only finalists are eligible.
Malawi has now failed to beat their neighbours in the last seven meetings with Zambia winning six times. The other game ended goalless.
The Junior Flames went into the latest encounter needing a two-goal margin win to progress to the last-four after losing 2-1 to Namibia and beating Comoros 1-0.
But the 21st and 67th minute goals by Zambia’s hero Jimmy Mukeya ensured that the Patrick Mabedi-coached side returns home early.
Yesterday, the team appeared to be on the right path to glory after taking the game to the Zambians’ half on a number of occasion but, as had been the case in their two games, they failed to convert their last chances.
They had three shots, but none went on target while Zambia had seven with two on target.
Said Mabedi: “We must learn to take our chances and play more on the ground like we did in the last 30 minutes. It was a painful experience because we gave away soft goals in this tournament and failed to convert the numerous chances we had.”
“All the same, we are out and we have to go back to the drawing board and see how we can perform in the next tournaments.”
Malawi captain Hadji Wali said they take the blame for the poor showing at the competition.
Malawi has finished third in their four-team group with three points while Zambia and Namibia have sailed through to the semi-finals as group winners and best runners-up with nine and six points respectively. Namibia beat bottom-placed Comoros 1-0 yesterday.
Zambia will face Namibia in the first semis tomorrow.
The other semi-final pits Group A winners Mozambique, who booted out hosts South Africa with a goalless draw yesterday, agianst Group C runners-up Angola.