Malawi national football team coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) squad selection has come under criticism after he sidelined five TNM Super League leading scorers from the side that suffered early elimination from the 2018 Cosafa Challenge Cup a fortnight ago.
Malawi performed poorly, in attacking sense, as they scored a single goal—albeit from a defender Precious Sambani’s goal—in three matches during the regional competition held in South Africa.
The coach left out Silver Strikers forward Mphatso Philemon, who leads the scoring chart with six goals, Civil Sporting Club hitman Raphael Phiri, Azam Tigers’ Luke Chima both with five goals, Blue Eagles’ John Malidadi and Mathews Simbeye who have scored four goals apiece..
To the contrary, he included Nyasa Big Bullets striker Chiukepo Msowoya and Gastin Simkonda who have four and three goals respectively.
But in an interview RVG defended his selection, saying some of the leading scorers were included in the provisional squad but they needed time to integrate.
“We invited the players for pre-tournament training. I think [for] some of them it was the first time to be part of the national team and that was part of their integration. Step by step they can be integrated in the national team,” he said.
He challenged the leading scorers to continue performing well to be considered.
“If they are still playing well then they are knocking on the door then it is going to be important for the national team technical panel to invite them again,” he said.
The coach, however, said Malawi’s failure to score goals was not solely down to lack of attacking arsenal.
“The players created a lot of chances but failed to score more than one goal. It was a matter of bad lack and lacking the killer punch in the 18-yard area. There is something we have to work on to give the [strikers] confidence,” he said.
But football analyst Felix Ngamanya-Sapao criticised the coach’s selection criteria, saying it was focused on results rather than developing the team.
“Cosafa is for development and, therefore, the players that were supposed to be in the team are these young players that are leading the scorers’ chat.
“They are the ones who could have been included in the team. They could be the future of the team but if they cannot be included in such competitions, how are they going to gain exposure?” he wondered.
Sapao also said it was wrong for the coach to use the tournament to prepare for the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Morocco, Cameroon and Comoros.
“To be thoroughly honest, Malawi will not beat Morocco and Cameroon [and] qualify for the Afcon finals. It was, therefore, a waste of time to include old players instead of young ones who we can develop to challenge for 2022 World Cup and 2021 Afcon finals places,” he said.
On his part, Philemon expressed disappointment over his failure to make the final cut but hoped that his time will come.
“I was golden boot race runner-up last season and I am currently the leading scorer. It bothers me that I am not included in the final squad. Maybe my time has not come yet,” he said.
Philemon is mostly included in the provisional squad, but is always overlooked in the final squad.
“When I am called up I give my all. I just wish that one day the coach will have trust in me. I am a hardworker who can shine at international level given a chance,” he said.
Seasoned coach Patrick Kulemeka observed that the coach has not been flexible enough in his team selections fearing this could frustrate a lot of young players.
“He still sticks with the same players at the expense of young ones that are doing well in the league and other competitions. This is sad because the players he picks regularly have not brought the positive results,” he said.
Kulemeka said the FAM technical subcommittee was supposed to be providing strict checks and balances on the coach’s selection and philosophy.
“I don’t think that committee is monitoring and criticising some of his tactics. If it was doing a proper job I am sure the coach couldn’t have been as goofy as he is currently,” he said.
FAM has said that in the wake of the Cosafa disaster it will review the performance of the coach.