Ambitious Malawi women football national team is optimistic of defying the odds at the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Championship in Zimbabwe this afternoon as they face Zambia in their Group A opener.
The match, to be played at Barbourfield Stadium in Zimbabwe’s second major city Bulawayo, will be the fifth meeting between the two sides since their first face-off in 2002 when Malawi suffered their biggest loss (0-8).
In their previous meetings, Malawi won only once and lost thrice.
The team’s only victory against Zambia was the first leg of the 2012 Women African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers at Kamuzu Stadium where they triumphed 4-2.
However, they failed to progress to the next round after losing 9-4 on aggregate following a 0-7 defeat in the return leg.
Malawi also lost to Zambia 2-3 in an international friendly eight months ago.
Zambia boasts two Cosafa bronze medals while Malawi’s best achievement at the event is a top-four finish.
But despite not having an international tune-up match prior to the latest Cosafa showdown, Malawi coach Stuart Mbolembole, captain Tabitha Chawinga and National Women Football Association (NWFA) president Severia Chalira, believe the team has what it takes to be a serious title contender.
Mbolembole, who is expected to use a 4-4-2 system of play, said his charges are determined for a confidence-building victory against Zambia.
He said: “Of course, Zambia are superior to us in terms of the current statistics. However, that does not mean they are unbeatable. Moreover, a win in this opening match will boost our morale and energise the team going into our next fixtures. All we have to do is to avoid committing so many mistakes and be aggressive on the attack. We are more than ready to achieve this feat.”
Sweden-based striker Chawinga, who joined the squad in Bulawayo alongside another overseas professional Austria-based defender Chisomo Kazisonga on Monday, said this is their opportunity to surprise the world in the Southern African contest.
“This is the moment we should let the world know about the talent that Malawi has in store. The atmosphere in camp is excellent and everyone is ready for the challenge. We will fight for the pride of our beloved country,” she said.
Chalira, who has accompanied the team to Zimbabwe, said she was impressed with the performance of the players during training sessions they had at Barbourfield Stadium for the past two days.
Meanwhile, www.Lusakatimes.com has reported that Zambia’s She-polopolo coach Albert Kachinga is determined to pluck a victory from the imminent match.
He was quoted as saying: “We are ready. The girls’ response in training is very impressive. We are going to respect our opponents, but our target is to reach the finals.”
Malawi’s first line-up against Zambia is as follows:
Goalkeeper: Martha Banda. Defenders: Fatsireni Kazembe, Patricia Nyirenda, Kazisonga and Wezzie Mvula. Midfielders: Sabina Thom, Eluby Bottoman, Madna Ngulube and Tabitha. Strikers: Mary Chabvinda and Temwa Chawinga.