For a change, the Flames scorched Ethiopia and with it, brought smiles to Kamuzu Stadium’s long-suffering fans on Wednesday afternoon. With that 3-2 win, the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying dream is alive.
However, with six games played and four to go, there are facts worth coach Young Chimodzi’s urgent attention.
The Flames concede either too early or too late; a sign of tactical naivety, inexperience or low fitness. Ethiopia netted in the 44th and 92 nd minutes. On Sunday in Mali, Malawi succumbed to 52nd and 90th minute strikes.
As long as Hellings Mwakasungula’s defensive midfield role is not filled, the Flames will always struggle defending. Chimango Kayira is powerful, but breaking attacks is not his strength. Playing Kayira, Robert Ng’ambi and Joseph Kamwendo was like featuring Chancy Gondwe, Ernest Mtawali and late Hendrix Banda; a combination which failed spectacularly.
On Ng’ambi, as long as he is prescribed a midfield role to make short non-progressive passes, instead of a free role, he will never replicate club form to country. He is more effective exploiting gaps in advanced attacking positions to score.
And stuffing the squad with more defenders cannot guarantee a better away record, but collective defensive discipline. Three away matches, in which, five defenders were deployed, leaked in six goals. Surprised? Few Super League teams play defensive football.
Under Chimodzi, the Flames’ actual play is more fluid as players are able to string passes. But transition from defence to attack lacks urgency.
Charles Swini, McDonald Harawa and Richard Chipuwa are quality goalkeepers, but Simplex Nthala, for all his perceptive weaknesses, is better than the rest. He is the only Malawian keeper playing across the borders.
Chimodzi’s record is comparatively poor with just three wins in 11 games, but his strength is winning when it is a must.
Malawi’s new defence is shaping up, but still lacks leadership.
Atusaye Nyondo is a natural scorer who belongs to the ‘box.’ He must not be wasted by asking him to track down opponents. Frank Gabadinho Mhango is still good, but on a learning curve.