Malawi’s chances of making the semi-final grade at the Cosafa Under-20 Championship in Lusaka, Zambia went up in smoke on Monday following a 2-1 loss to the hosts.
The Malawi Under-20 national football team needed a win to progress to the last-four stage as Group A winners but the loss means they have also missed the opportunity to make it as the best runners-up across the three groups.
Zambia lead the group with nine points, having won all their three group matches while Malawi have finished second with four points, the same points as Botswana, who beat Comoros 2-0 at Sunset Stadium yesterday, to finish third in the group on inferior goal difference.
Angola have qualified for the semis as Group C winners, having won all their three games while e-Swatini have settled for a second place on six points and are waiting for the conclusion of Group B fixtures to see if they are the best runners-up. They hope South Africa or Madagascar falter this afternoon in their clashes against Lesotho and Mauritius, respectively.
On Monday, Zambia took a 2-0 lead following a 40th minute penalty taken by their captain Golden Mafwenta and a 70th minute strike by Francisco Mwepu before Malawi scored a consolation four minutes later through Fransisco Madinga.
Malawi coach Peter Mponda said it was sad to be booted out of the tournament after putting up a gallant fight.
“Football is about scoring goals and winning games. We conceded through a penalty which was a result of lack of concentration on our part. We contained them in the entire first 45 minutes, but loss of concentration spoiled our game. In the second half we tried to attack more, but we were caught on the counterattack,” he said
Zambia will now meet Angola in the semi-finals on Thursday in what is a potentially explosive clash.
Malawi gave Malawians false hopes when they thrashed Comoros 4-0 in their opening match before settling for a two-all draw against Botswana in their second match.
So far, only four nations, namely the hosts Zambia, reigning champions South Africa, Zimbabwe and Madagascar, have previously won the competition since its inception 36 years ago. Zambia won it for a record 11 times followed by South Africa (eight), Zimbabwe (six) and Madagascar (one).