Malawi women’s football national team has been rated as one of the strongest sides at the Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Cup in Zimbabwe, following the inclusion of Europe-based stars defender Kazisonga from the Altera Porta and striker Tabitha Chawinga, who plays in Sweden with Knarsveden IK.
The Stuart Mbolembolecoached side is the only team with Europe-based players, according to Cosafa website www.cosafa. com.
The other teams have players from South African clubs.
Malawi are in the same group with hosts Zimbabwe, favourites Zambia and minnows Madagascar.
They open their 2017 campaign against Zambia (September 13), before clashes with Madagascar (September 15) and Zimbabwe (September 17).
All of the matches will be played at the Barbourfields Stadium.
Coach Mbolembole said this time they are gunning for the title.
“Unlike the men’s tournament where you are able to spy on the tactics of other teams, the Cosafa Women Cup has not provided us that opportunity. But we are preparing to compete for ultimate glory although we do not know the strength of our opponents,” he said.
The top team in each pool advances to the semifinals, along with the best second-placed side.
The Zambia coach Albert Kachinga has said Malawi only side with Europebased players at Cosafa they are not underrating any team.
He said: “These days, there are no easy games. There is no team which can underrate the other. We have to work extra hard so that we can pull through. All the teams are good for them to play at the tournament.”
The hosts coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda said they have full respect for all opponents.
“We expected to be grouped alongside any participating team, thus, we are going to prepare the same way for every team that we are going to face, without necessarily focusing on the name of the opponent.
“ We have played Zambia before, with varying degrees of success, but all that is in the past now and this time it will be a completely different game. We have to guard against complacency if we are to do well,” she said.
Madagascar will feature at the championships for the first time, having missed the previous four instalments.
They also only recently played their first official international match. Malawi, on the other hand, played their first ever international at the 2002 Cosafa Cup, losing 8-0 to Zambia at the tournament in Zambia.
They beat Lesotho 3-0 in their next game to record a first win, but failed to reach the knockout stages.
Malawi then defeated Lesotho by the same scoreline at the 2006 championships, but a 3-0 loss to South Africa ended their semi-final hopes.
In 2011, Malawi reached the knockout stages after finishing second in their pool.
They went on to lose 5-1 to South Africa again in the semi-final loss.
They eventually finished fourth after losing 3-0 to East African guest nation Tanzania in the bronze medal play-off match.