Junior Flames coach Gerald Phiri is confident of a good start at Cosafa Under-20 Championship in Kitwe, Zambia, this morning as they face Swaziland in a Group A opener at Arthur Davies Stadium.
During last year’s Council for Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) event in South Africa, Malawi Under-20 team completed their fixtures without a win or scoring a goal in the group stages, having drawn 0-0 with Zimbabwe before losing 0-3 to Zambia and 0-1 to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At the latest edition, Junior Flames have been tasked to win the Cosafa title for the first time although they did not have any international strength-testing match. They only gauged their strength against local giants Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets. They beat Wanderers 4-1 before drawing 1-1 with Bullets.
“The morale is high. The players are looking sharp and are geared for the game. Our aim is to collect three points. I ask people back home to pray for us and we hope we will not disappoint them this time around,” he said.
According to Phiri, their ability to score five goals and concede only two in their recent strength-testing matches against TNM Super League giants is enough proof that they have a sharp striking force and a strong defence.
He said the likes of Peter Banda, Mike Mkwate, Levison Maganizo and Patrick Phiri are some of the players he will rely on against Swaziland.
Malawi will progress to the semi-finals if they win today and beat hosts Zambia in their second match this Friday. They will take on guest contestants Uganda in their last group encounter on Monday.
Zambia are considered favourites to qualify from the group as they are the defending champions and have won the competition for a record 11 times. Nevertheless, Malawi still have to fight hard to get good results in their games as the best loser in the tournament’s three groups will still progress to the last-four stage.
Zimbabwe, who are in group C alongside Angola, Lesotho and Namibia, have won the competition six times while South Africa, who are in group B along with Mozambique, Mauritius and guests Egypt, have won it five times.
Madagascar, who were champions in 2005, is the other team to have won the trophy. n