Despite the odds being stack against his charges, Malawi Under-17 national football team coach Deklerk Msakakuona believes they can beat free-scoring Zambia in their last Group A match of the Cosafa Under-17 Youth Championship this afternoon.
Malawi hosts tournament favourites Zambia at Mpira Stadium in Chiwembe Township, Blantyre in pursuit of semi-final qualification.
The hosts complicated their campaign on Monday when they gave away a 1-0 lead in their second group match to lose 2-1 to e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland), who suffered a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Zambia in their opener. Malawi and Zambia thrashed South Africa’s Amajimbos 3-0 and 7-0, respectively.
Malawi are currently tied on three points with e-Swatini and, to enhance their survival chances, they must beat leaders Zambia who have six points from two-straight wins.
They will also be hoping that South Africa should beat e-Swatini in the other Group A match.
In their last two Cosafa Under-17 meetings, Malawi lost 2-0 to the eventual champions Zambia in the 2017 semi-finals and 3-0 in the 2016 group stages, but Msakakuona said they have not yet thrown the white flag.
“We have to win against Zambia. I know it will be a tall order after seeing them score 13 goals and not conceding in their two games. They are a good side, but if e-Swatini managed to beat us after losing 6-0 to Zambia, we can also win against Zambia. We can draw inspiration from that,” he said.
“We have young boys. They are technically good, but they just need to be psychologically ready to execute the job. It will be a different game against Zambia.”
Malawi captain Clifford Chimlambe admitted that they messed up in their game against e-Swatini, but said they will do their best to rectify the mistakes this afternoon.
“It was really a painful loss considering that we dominated the game. However, we know we have a tougher assignment against Zambia and we have to forget all that. We will do our best to pluck a win and make Malawians proud,” he said.
Zambia coach Oswald Mutapa said they will not underrate the hosts who will have home-crowd support.
“We had a training session looking at the strongest points of the opponents, but we will also not neglect our strong points,” he said.
“We are ready to meet them and we will not let complacency spoil our mission of achieving success in all stages of the competition.”