Women’s football national team coach Abel Mkandawire says they target a semi-final finish at the 2019 Cosafa Women’s Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa next week although their main goal is to prepare for their second round qualifier of 2019 Tokyo Olympics against Kenya next month.
It is eight years since the national team last reached the knockout stage at the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) event and Mkandawire believes it is important to eye both the regional pride and the Olympics tune-ups.
Malawi, which is expected to leave on Monday, will start their Cosafa campaign with an encounter against Madagascar on July 31 in Group A. The group also has defending champions South Africa and debutants Comoros Island.
Winners in each of the three four-team groups will progress to the last-four stage alongside the overall best runner-up.
“Of course, the Cosafa event is the best platform to prepare for the Olympics qualifiers but we still need to make the country proud because it has been too long since we reached the semis,” he said.
“This is why we are trying our best to inject into our players, during training, a mentality to treat every game as final although our main aim is to be in good shape ahead of the Olympic qualifier fixture against Kenya at home.”
The Cosafa event will run between July 31 and August 11, barely 17 days before the Malawi plays Kenya on August 28.
Malawi is among five teams that will take advantage of the 12-team Southern Africa regional competition to fine-tune their tactics ahead of their Olympics qualifiers alongside South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana.
Mkandawire yesterday said they are currently focusing on polishing the midfield and the striking force considering that overseas-based net-busters captain Tabitha and Temwa Chawinga, will not be available.
National Women Football Association (NWFA) chairperson Suzgo Ngwira said Cosafa should not only be a preparatory event for the Olympic qualifiers, but also a platform for team to make the country proud.
Meanwhile, Kenya head coach David Ouma was quoted on www.xinhuanet.com as saying that they would do their best to beat Malawi and qualify for the Olympics to make up for their failure to qualifier for the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) tournament in Ghana.
“It was indeed sad that we did not take part in the last Awcon edition in Accra. This time around, we want to be in the Olympics and I believe we shall achieve it,” he explained.
While Malawi has two professional players in China-based Tabitha and Sweden-based Temwa, Kenya has six.
Four of their players Corazon Aquino, Teresha Engesha, Mary Kinuthia and Christine Nafula turn out for Swedish outfits while Marjolene Nekesa and Esse Akida play in United States of America and Israel, respectively.
The 2020 CAF Women’s Olympic qualifying tournament will be used to determine which women’s national teams from Africa will qualify for the Olympic football tournament in Japan.
Twenty-five teams are participating in the qualifiers. The winner will automatically qualify 2020 Summer Olympics.
The runner-up will enter a play-off against the second-placed team from South American Football Confederation (Conmebol).