The Malawi National Football Team’ chances of making the semi-final grade at the ongoing COSAFA Cup competition in South Africa went up in smoke on Tuesday afternoon after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Namibia in Group B to exit the tournament with one game to play.
The Flames needed a win to remain in contention for a place in the last four but the draw means they have two points from the possible nine and even if they can beat Senegal in their final match, they will fall short of points as the Lions of Teranga are poised to join Namibia who have already qualified to the semifinals.
Meck Mwase made five changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Mozambique on Sunday by handing starts to William Thole, Nickson Mwase, Taonga Chimodzi, Ndaziona Chatsalira and Maxwell Gasten for Ernest Kakhobwe, Nickson Nyasulu, Chikoti Chirwa, Vitumbiko Kumwenda and Rafick Namwera.
Malawi had their first chance in the 9th minute from Khuda Myaba’s freekick which came off the wall.
At the other end of the field, Namibia almost scored but Wesley Katjiteo’s shot went wide to the relief of Mwase’ led technical panel.
With five minutes to play, Mwase made a double substitution, with Gasten being replaced by Zicco Mkanda after sustaining an injury whilst Chatsalira paved the way for Micium Mhone.
Knowing how important a victory was for the Flames, Myaba, Schumacher Kuwali and Chimwemwe Idana all pressed hard for a goal but the Namibians defended jealously to frustrate them and the first half ended 0-0.
After the recess, it only took Brave Warriors eight minutes for them to score through Elmo Kambindu whose shot beat Thole in goal for Malawi, 1-0.
This forced Mwase to make a triple change by bringing on board Muhammad Sulumba, Kumwenda and Mike Mkwate for Myaba, Kuwali and Idana in the 65th minute to try to force something out of the game but to no avail.
The Namibians brought in Immanuel Heita for Alfeus Handura in the 70th minute to defend their slender lead which was under threat from Malawi’ newly introduced arsenal in the field.
Malawi’ dream was kept alive in the 74th minute when Mhone leveled following a defensive relapse from Brave Warriors, 1-1.
However, it was too late to save the ship from sinking as Malawi failed to find the winning goal which would have taken their tally to four points and with a game to play.
The result means Malawi is yet to register a win at the tournament and they will play their final game on Wednesday against Senegal before returning home.
The latest failure by the team to go beyond the last four means the Flames have, for the past 19 years, exited the tournament at the quarterfinal level.
The last time Malawi came close to winning the tournament was in 2002 and 2003 when they reached the finals but lost to South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively.
At the ongoing campaign, Mwase’s men have scored three goals and conceded five.