Malawi national netball team, the Queens, this afternoon face fast-improving Zimbabwe in the battle for position five and six at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England.
The two sides are tied on four points from four matches each, but the Queens are third in the six-team Group F on better aggregate.
The winner of today’s match will proceed to play a fifth and sixth placement match against either African champions Uganda’s She Cranes or Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls, who are third and fourth, respectively, in Group G.
A loss to the lower-ranked side would not only confine the Queens to not-inspiring seventh and eighth place playoffs, but also deny them a chance to reclaim the world’s sixth ranking after dropping three places to ninth on the latest International Netball Federation (INF) world rankings.
The Queens are four steps ahead of 13th ranked Zimbabwe and have a better head-to-head record against the fellow African outfit.
However, Zimbabwe have improved a lot considering their recent performance against their bigger opponents.
They lost by 37 baskets against defending champions Australia in a match that ended 37-73. A depleted Queens, on the other hand, lost by 49 baskets (74-25) on Tuesday.
The Queens assistant coach Whyte Mlilima said they will not underrate the Zimbabweans.
“We are aware that Zimbabwe are no longer a small team we used to beat in the past and they are standing on our way. We have done our homework and we are ready for the challenge,” he said.
He added that their recent decision to rest some players, including star-shooter Joyce Mvula during an encounter against Australia was deliberate.
“We wanted all our best players to recover and be in good shape ahead of the Zimbabwe encounter. We knew it would be tough to beat Australia and it was risky on our revival mission to feature all our top players,” he said.
Former Queens’ captain Emmie Waya-Chongwe said the technical panel should make sure the team uses its well-known unorthodox technique against Zimbabwe.
“With this technique, we are capable of keeping possession for a long time while preventing our opponents from scoring many baskets. The short-and-quick passes also frustrate other teams and let us score as many baskets as possible. We abandoned this technique in our recent games and it is better to get back to it now,” she said.
Previously, Malawi beat Zimbabwe 79-43 during the 2018 Africa Netball Championship and 68-43 during the 2013 edition Malawi hosted at the Blantyre Youth Centre.
Netball analyst Chimwemwe Nyirenda said the Netball World Cup matches are treated like test matches and the Malawi Queens should make sure they win matches against teams above them while avoiding losing to teams below them on the rankings.
“At all cost, Malawi should avoid losing to Zimbabwe. Malawi’s Queens need to make sure they beat Zimbabwe to remain on third position in the group,” he said.
The match will be broadcast live from 1:30pm on DStv and GOtv.