Malawi cast net wide for Cosafa Under-20 Championships

Malawi are stepping up their preparations for the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, sponsored by PPC, with a series of trials held in the country recently.

Newly-appointed coach Gerald Phiri will lead the team at the finals in South Africa’s North West province from December 7-16 and is eager to unearth fresh talent to bolster the senior national team.

Phiri and his assistants, Enos Chatama and Griffin Saenda Junior, will likely pick the bulk of their squad from the FMB Under-20 league, the Super League and Malawi’s Under-17 national side.

Trials were held at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre (Southern Region), Zomba Community Centre in Zomba (Eastern Region), Nankhaka Stadium in Lilongwe (Central Region) and Mzuzu Stadium in Mzuzu (Northern Region).

From these, 32 players all born after January 1, 1998, will be selected by Phiri and the other national team coaches, for a camp in Blantyre starting in the middle of this month to select a final squad for South Africa.

The Young Flames have a difficult task at this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships as they meet Zambia and Zimbabwe in the three-team Group B.

Only the top side in each pool advances to the semifinals, with Malawi to open their campaign against Zimbabwe on December 9 at the Moruleng Stadium. They take on Zambia at the same venue two days later.

Malawi have been in and out of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in recent years with their last appearance in the 2011 tournament where they reached the semifinals and eventually finished fourth.

They did not return for the tournament in Lesotho three years ago, but make a welcome showing in South Africa in 2016 as one of the fancied sides.

The country have yet to win the regional showpiece competition, but did reach the final in 2003 when they lost out to Zambia in the decider.

They also had a semi-final appearance in 2006, and will be hoping to claim a first ever regional title this year.