Watch out for Malawi, says Zimbabwean captain knowledge Musona
Buea, Diamelle Denson
Malawi has made history qualifying to the Last 16 of the African Cup for the first time. The lone representative of Southern Africa cut celebrations short, and is already in Yaounde ahead of the clash with Morocco next Tuesday.
After losing the opener 0-1 to Guinea, Marian Mario Marinica’s side won sister country Zimbabwe 2-1 and avoided defeat against star-studded Senegal in their last group B clash to make it past the group stage.
The south-east Africans making their first appearance since 2010 now have Morocco as their next hurdle.
Morocco won group C after victories against Ghana, Comoros and a draw with Gabon. One-time champion (1976), the Atlas Lions – too familiar with Afcon – are the better side on paper.
But the tournament has thrown up surprises which saw heavyweights Ghana and Algeria boarding early flights while unknown quantities stay on.
Malawi has participated in international competitions since the 1960s but has nothing to show for. Nicknamed “Flames”, they are three-time CECAFA champions, lastly winning in 1988.
Before now, their only win at the Afcon finals was over Algeria in their first game of the tournament in 1984.
The Flames defeated Uganda one-nil during a highly contested match to secure a place at the 33rd edition of Africa’s greatest football championship.
They qualified as best-third team from group B which played its matches in Kouekong stadium, Bafoussam.
Can Flames Burn Morocco?
Knowing they have a mountain to climb, the representatives of the Southern Africa football block – Cosafa, cut celebrations short to begin work immediately.
The team arrived in Yaounde from Bafoussam on Friday 21 January and trained at the Military Stadium later.
“We worked very hard to get here. We achieved something great for Malawi,” coach Marian Mario said.
Quizzed on their opponents, he said it is “probably one of the toughest team. However, we are going to be very prepared, very determined, work hard and we believe in our chance.”
One of those who believe in Malawi is the captain of homebound Zimbabwe, Knowledge Musona.
“I am happy for them because they are from our region representing us from southern Africa. I wish them good luck.”
Musona sees Malawi as a formidable side to represent the southern region because “if they are here, they are a good team.”
“Here, we only have teams that qualified and play good. For them to be here it means they are a good team to compete.”
Eighth finals begin on Sunday 23 January 2022 with Burkina Faso to face Gabon 5pm local time in Limbe Omnisport stadium while Nigeria welcome Tunisia 8pm at the Roumde Adija stadium in Garoua.