The Malawi women football national team coach Maggie Chombo-Sadiki is confident of a good start at the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Championships in South Africa this morning as they face Botswana in opener.
Although Malawi is ranked 130 on Fifa/Coca-Cola World Rankings, seven steps better than Botswana, the odds are stuck against them considering the unavailability of three overseas free-scoring professional strikers–China-based Tabitha Chawinga, her Sweden-based younger sister Temwa and Sabina Thom.
Malawi also did not have any strength-testing match prior to their arrival in Port Elizabeth while Botswana had a strong build-up to the Southern African regional tournament, having thrashed group-B side Lesotho 5-0 and 2-0 in two international friendly matches.
But Chombo-Sadiki yesterday said they are ready for the showdown and are geared to improve on their last year’s group stage finish.
“We know we have a huge task to prove our capabilities at Cosafa. However, we have a young squad that is hungry for success and eager to market themselves through this tournament. A win in our opening match will boost our morale and we are fully prepared for the Botswana encounter,” she said.
Botswana coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlusang was quoted on Cosafa website as having said she has not taken her side to the tournament just to fufil fixtures, but compete for the title.
“I am confident that we are not going to just add numbers, but to compete,” she was quoted as saying.
In the absence of the Chawinga sisters and Thom, Malawi is banking on Linda Kasenda, Mary Chabvinda, Vanessa Chikupira and South Africa-based Joy Bongowongo.
Players to watch on Botswana side are Balotlhanye Johannes and Lesego Radikakanyo, who scored two goals apiece during their friendly matches against Lesotho.
Meanwhile, Tabitha, who was Malawi top-scorer with eight goals and was the tournament’s second highest scorer in 2017, has since wished the national team well after her club Jiangsu Sunning refused to release her.
“I wish the team all the best. It pains me that I am not in South Africa with them. I pray that the Almighty God should guide them to success,” she said.
After today’s match, Malawi will take on Madagascar on Friday before playing South Africa in their final group stage match on September 17.
Madagascar are ranked 139, nine steps lower than Malawi, while defending champions South Africa are the highest ranked outfit in the group at 51.
The competition has three groups and the winner of each group will automatically qualify to the semifinals while the rest will fight for the best loser slot.
Group B has Zambia, Lesotho, Mozambique and guests Cameroon whereas group C has Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Namibia and guests Uganda.