The waiting is over. Malawi national football team’s dream of making it to TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations last 16 is now a reality after finishing as one of the four best third-placed teams.
The Flames have made it to the knockout stage following the results from Group D which saw Nigeria and Egypt qualifying as the pool’s leaders and runners-up, respectively.
Nigeria have finished on top with nine points following their 2-0 victory over Guinea Bissau while Egypt are second with six points after beating Sudan 1-0.
Third-placed Guinea Bissau cannot compete for the four best third-placed teams slot since they have a point after three rounds of games.
This leaves the battle for the best third-placed teams narrowed to teams from groups A, B, C and E.
As it stands, Cape Verde (Group A) and Malawi (Group B) have four points, apiece followed by Comoros (Group C) with three points.
Group F is still open to all four teams—Ivory Coast with four points, Equatorial Guinea with three points, Sierra Leone with two points and Algeria with one point.
Ivory Coast, who are assured of top-three finish, face Algeria while Equatorial Guinea face Sierra Leone today.
Any result from the two Group F matches will only affect Comoros in the battle for the remaining two slots, meaning Cape Verde and Malawi are safe.
The Flames now face Morocco in the last 16 on January 23, according to Flames head of technical panel Mario Marian Marinica.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu was lost for words after the confirmation of Malawi’s qualification.
He said: “This is incredible. It’s a milestone to qualify to the knock out stages of 16 teams in Afcon. The history books have been rewritten with this new generation.
“I applaud the players for this rare feat and the technical panel for grooming such a formidable side. I am happy that the Flames have repaid the faith of the soccer-loving Malawians that rallied behind the team during a long dry spell.”
Marinica, in an interview yesterday, thanked his players and technical panel for making it to the last 16.
He said: “We worked very hard to achieve this. I am proud of the players and the technical panel for this achievement.”
The qualification means the Flames players will each get K1 million bonus from FAM.