It is not a question of whether Juinor Flames can win, but they should learn to deliver the goods when matters are in their hands.
After Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 2015 African Youth Championship final qualifying round first leg, matters are not in the hands of Ernest Mtawali’s boys.
Yet Mtawali, obviously encouraged by a brave 2-1 away win over Botswana’s Young Zebras in the preliminary round, second leg a fortnight ago, told the press at Kamuzu Stadium that all was not lost.
“We can go to the DRC and get a result. Football is football. We never lose hope. Today, we gave them the game when we should have scored three goals in the first 15 minutes,” Mtawali explained after being rescued by Suwedi Limbani’s 79th minute strike that cancelled Christy Manzinga’s 70th minute goal.
Yes, in the game against Young Zebras last month, Malawi also looked sluggish and purposeless when with the ball.
Come the away leg, Chawanangwa Kaonga made sure of the Junior Flames’ progression to this round with a brace in Gaborone but, on Saturday, the Silver Strikers man found the DRC physique tough to handle.
“Our finishing was a problem. We will have to go back to the drawing board,” Mtawali admitted.
Keeping a clean sheet is not the Junior Flames’ strength. For a third consecutive game, they have conceded three while scoring four. Malawi can keep the ball, but retaining it, pressing and penetration and urgency in the final third is a challenge.
In DRC, they need more goals and also power to safeguard their lead, lest the hosts use their precious away goal.
DRC have since 2012 not lost at home. The Nation research shows that in their last home match they drew 0-0 with Gabon. Previous home matches ended favourably for them. They thrashed Cameroon 4-1 to atone a 2-0 first-leg deficit.
The Cubs drew 0-0 in Mauritius before winning 3-0 at home in the reverse fixture.
Therefore, the scales are tipped in DRC’s favour going into the second leg of May 24 as a goalless draw will see them through to next year’s Senegal finals on away goals rule.
In DRC, the Junior Flames need discipline. On the evidence of Saturday’s performance, the Cubs might not be as technically gifted as Malawi, but they are tactically sound, they know how to get a result and where. The Junior Flames are wasteful.
On Saturday, it was clear the visitors were out for a draw. They only came out of their blocks when they discovered that the Junior Flames were incapable of converting possession into goals. It was all about tactics.