The Flames’ 2023 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup campaign gets underway this evening when they face defending champions Zambia’s Chipolopolo in Group B at King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi, Durban, South Africa.
The Flames go into the match as underdogs against the Zambians who are ranked above them on Fifa rankings and are eager to continue their impressive record at the regional competition.
Statistics favour the defending champions who have four wins and two draws out of eight meetings between the two sides while the Flames have two victories.
Zambia denied Malawi a semifinal place when the two sides last met in 2019 in the quarter-finals in a match the Flames lost on post-match penalties after a two-all draw.
However, interim Coach Patrick Mabedi believes everything has a beginning and an end.
“We looking forward to compete and do well. Zambia is a very good team. They have experienced players. They have been dominating. But there comes a time when we have to stop some of these things that have been happening in life.
“We know it’s not gonna be easy, we need to work harder and double out effort, so that we can change that and it needs commitment. If we stick to our game plan, I believe we will be successful.”
The Flames did not have time to camp for the regional tournament due to the TNM Super League and FDH Bank Cup fixtures.
However, Mabedi says there is no time for excuses.
He said: “Look, if we talk about preparations, it has been a challenge. As you know, we didn’t have a chance to train because of the activities in the league and cup games at home. So it has been very challenging. But it has not come to a point where we should make that an excuse. We just need to do what we can do.”
For the first time in six years, Malawi has brought a youthful squad of mostly debutants at the tournament.
The former Kaizer Chiefs coach has 14 debutants out of 25-strong squad.
Zambia based Chifundo Mphasi (Shamuel Academy), Christopher Kumwembe, Gaddie Chirwa (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Lanjesi Nkhoma (FCB Nyasa Big Bullets), Austin Chirambo ( FCB Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves) and Innocent Nyasulu (Mighty Tigers), Macdonald Lameck (Blue Eagles), Alick Lungu, Frank Willard ( FCB Nyasa Big Bullets, Blessings Singini (Ekwendeni Hammers), Chikumbutso Salima, Robert Saizi (Bangwe), Chikondi Kamanga, Patrick Macheso ( Silver Strikers) and Chrispin Mapemba (FCB Nyasa Big Bullets Reserves) are at the Cosafa up for the first time.
Mabedi said he wants to use the tournament to expose these players.
He said: “We look forward to exploit the tournament by giving these players a chance, more especially the young ones to give them an opportunity to show us what they can do.
“This is the only tournament that we can see them because in most of the competitions we can’t give them game time for exposure. This is our opportunity to see what they can do.”
His counterpart, Zambia assistant coach Moses Sichone has also brought local players only.
“Of course it’s not gonna be easy because Malawi always wants to prove a point,” he said.
Malawi did not make it out of the pool stages in 2021 as they drew two and lost two of their four games, while they also suffered a first round exit in 2022 under former coach Mario Marinica when Mabedi was assistant coach.