Malawi Under-20 women’s football team’s dream of progressing to the first round of the World Cup qualifiers went up in smoke yesterday after losing 1-0 to Zimbabwe in the return leg match at Barbourfields in Bulawayo.
The loss handed Zimbabwe a 2-1 aggregate victory after a one-all draw at Kamuzu Stadium two weeks ago.
After containing the hosts in the first half and a good part of the second half, Malawi conceded in the 72nd minute through Dinah Banda’s goal, according to Football Association of Malawi’s Whats app media group.
However, Malawi’s stand-in-coach Kondwani Mwalweni was not happy, claiming it was scored after the referee rescinded his decision for a foul.
“The match was good despite that the referee allowed Zimbabwe’s goal from an infringement,” he said in a post-match interview.
Mwalweni, who took charge after head coach Maggie Chombo Sadik got injured on the eve of their departure, said he was impressed with the performance.
“We will maintain the team and encourage the girls that there’s always next time. We are going to do better,” he said.
His counterpart Rosemary Mugadza admitted that Malawi gave them a good run for the victory.
“We knew that the first half was going to be difficult for us. It’s unfortunate that we failed to utilise our chances in the first half. Our strikers let us down, but we are happy with the performance of the girls as you know that we are just coming from Christmas break and we just trained for three weeks,” she said.
But Mugadza applauded her charges for qualifying to the next round to face either South Africa or Zambia.
In an interview yesterday, National Women’s Football Association (NWFA) chairperson Suzgo Ngwira described the loss as a lost opportunity for the girls to have more international exposure.
“Tough luck to the girls. They gave their all. This tournament is gone, but there’s always next time. Our focus will be on future competitions Let us continue encouraging them for they have potential and have what it takes to become champions,” she said.
Malawi also lost 1-0 to Zambia in a friendly match in preparations for the Zimbabwe game.