Mario Marian Marinica says he will be heading back to Malawi a proud person despite the Flames exiting the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The Romanian tactician said the team had delivered beyond expectations after it reached the competition’s knockout stage for the first time.
The Flames bowed out of the competition after a 2-1 loss to Morocco on Tuesday, but the coach applauded the players for a well-fought battle.
He said: “The players have been working very hard. The game plan worked. We tamed them between the first 20 and 30 minutes.
“Unfortunately, we had to face a very tough team, a team with lots of value.
“If you compare the two teams’ players at the transfer market , their [Moroccans] players’value is probably worth 10 times our squad.
“So obviously, that made the difference. However, our players worked so hard.
“I am so proud that I have been in charge of such a fantastic team.”
During the match, the Flames took the lead in the seventh minute through a stunning Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango’s goal that caught the Moroccans by surprise.
But the Atlas Lions responded positively and equalised on the dot of half time before scoring the winner in the 69th minute.
Both goals were scored from set-pieces and Marinica said he was not surprised that Malawi got punished from dead balls.
He said: “That actually was the fear. That’s the reason I kept saying that we need to change our philosophy. We need to have players with good height in certain positions.
“You know in modern football it is very difficult with short players to defend set-pieces. Set-pieces have become a speciality for some teams. When a player is 6’4 and you have a player who is 6’2, its not easy.
“However, some times you can have small players who can handle big players. When you have quality you have quality.”
Football Association of Malawi president Walter Nyamilandu saluted the Flames for their performance.
He said: “You are our heroes. You fought a good fight and rattled the cage of the Atlas Lions of Morocco. We played to our last breath and went down fighting.
“We came as underdogs but left an indelible mark at Afcon. I salute you for making Malawi proud. Our dream of Raising the Bar lives on.”’