Mkandawire looking forward to Banyana challenge

Malawi National Women’s Football team coach Abel Mkandawire says he is relishing the challenge of facing hosts and defending champions South Africa at the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship.

The She-Flames were on Wednesday drawn against South Africa in Group A alongside Madagascar and newcomers Comoros for the seventh edition of the regional Women’s football showpiece to be held in Nelson Mandela Bay from July 31-August 11.

Malawi have found it tough against South Africa in the annual championship and have thrice lost with big margins, including last year’s 6-0 defeat in the group stages.

Banyana Banyana, who are fresh from their maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup finals currently underway in France, are favourites to dominate Group A and defend the championship but Mkandawire said his girls will give them a good run for their gold medals.

“We are not worried or surprised about the draw. I expected it. You can’t avoid teams in such competitions, and you have to face giants at any stage of the competition. We are looking forward to playing them,” Mkandawire said.

“In fact, South Africa is the team that I wanted us to meet because they are a top-ranked team and a run with them will give us a picture of our progress considering how they beat us last time.

“We are in the 2020 Olympics qualifiers and the COSAFA is the platform that we intend to use to prepare for our next qualifying matches against Kenya so playing top teams like South Africa will help us a lot. I can’t wait to face them,” he said.

The She-Flames are expected to start camping next week and Mkandawire said the training will focus more on improving the physical and psychological state of his charges.

“The matches we played against Mozambique in the Olympics qualifiers proved that tactically the girls are getting it right, but they showed some deficiency in mental strength as well as physical fitness which we must work on before invading Port Elizabeth,” said Mkandawire.

Malawi have never won the COSAFA Women’s Championship and their best finish in four attempts was a semifinal outing which they lost 5-1 to South Africa during the 2011 Championship in Zimbabwe.

By Gome Zakazaka