Coach speaks on squad selection 

Coach speaks on squad selection 

As the Flames start the countdown to their 2023 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) two-legged final round qualifier against Mozambique, Flames coach Mario Marinica says his choice of players is based on performance and not age.

The Flames host Mozambique’s Mambas on August 27 at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe while the return fixture will be a week later in Maputo and the Romanian tactician has released his squad for the crucial qualifier.

The 28-man squad called into camp to start preparations on Monday is a mixture of youngsters and seasoned campaigners—something the coach says is a deliberate move.

Marinica has roped in five new faces in goalkeepers Dalitso Khungwa of Waka Waka Tigers and Joshua Woka of Kamuzu Barracks Reserves, Dedza Dynamos midfielder Charles Chipala, striker Promise Kamwendo and Nyasa Big Bullets forward Lanjesi Nkhoma.

Marinica: I pick players based on form

He has maintained some veterans, including Mighty Mukuru Wanderers forward Chiukepo Msowoya and Blue Eagles midfielder Micium Mhone.

Notable faces that have been dropped include goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, defender Sankhani Mkandawire and midfielder Yamikani Chester and striker Schumacher Kuwali.

Said Marinica: “For Chan, as it is in the final qualifying stages, I believe most would have wanted to have the most competitive team possible.”

The coach says he has an open door policy for the national team.

He said: “I keep saying I pick players on form. The national football team door is open for any player who is in form.”

But the coach said he needs to balance up-and-coming players and the old guards.

Said Marinica: “The way I see it in Malawi, people also want results on fast forward. Thus, you have to balance bringing youngsters and development and getting results that matter.

“Also, from my experience, particularly at Crystal Palace, where we had 11 players promoted in the first team from my group, players progress quicker if challenged by experienced players and win in meanwhile.

“Young players need time, patience and understanding that on the way, they may make mistakes like Blessings Mpokera did against Lesotho.”

But some soccer analysts feel the coach should concentrate on up-and-coming players to match the Mambas’ youthful squad which stunned highly rated Zambia’s Chipolopolo side.

Kelvin Moyo said Marinica should consider using Under-23 players he recently took to Turkey.

He said: “It will be a mountain to climb to chalk a win against the Mambas, but if we want to win, we need to incorporate the majority of those that travelled to Turkey with the Under-23.

Another soccer analyst George Chiusiwa also warned that taking professional players to Cosafa Cup when our opponents took purely locals will haunt the Flames.

He said: “The Mambas have an upper hand considering that they have had the feel of football in the Chan 2023 qualification journey while the Flames sailed through without kicking a ball owing to Zimbabwe’s ban.

“More  importantly, Mozambique have a team of local players that have enjoyed more playing time, having finished fourth at the Cosafa Cup tournament.

“This experience is vital for the Mambas ahead of the two-legged ties against the Flames who had a miserable outing at the regional tournament in South Africa despite banking on some foreign-based players that will not be available in duels against Mozambique.”

Marinica admitted the lost opportunity of giving up-and-coming players a chance at Cosafa.

He said: “It would have made sense to have a younger squad if these players had been given a chance to get experience and exposure in Cosafa then to carry on in Chan.”

Malawi has never qualified for the Chan tournament which was introduced in 2007 to promote local players.

In the last edition, the Flames were knocked out by e-Swatini on away goal rule after a 1-1 draw at Kamuzu Stadium. The first leg had ended goalless in Swaziland.

The full squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Charles Thom, Clever Nkungula, Khungwa and Woka; Defenders: Stanley Sanudi, Alick Lungu, Gomezgani Chirwa, Precious Sambani, Mpokera, Daniel Chimbalanga, Paul Ndlobvu, Kelvin kadzinje, Herbert Wayekha, Nickson Mwase; Midfielders: Mhone, Chikoti Chirwa, Chimwemwe Idana, Patrick Mwaungulu, Isaac Kaliati, Patrick Banda, Charles Chipala, Loyd Njaliwa; Attackers: Msowoya, Gadi Chirwa,  Kamwendo, Raphael Phiri, Nkhoma, Stain Davie.

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