National football team head of technical panel Mario Marian Marinica has blasted the Flames’ critics, saying too much expectation is countering football development in the country.

The Romanian tactician said this following criticism of the team’s failure to beat Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals despite creating a horde of scoring opportunities.

Mario stressed that Malawi football is failing to develop due to fans and media’s high expectations of the national team.

He said: “I keep saying that too much expectation is running down football in (sic) the country). Too much expectations lead to bitter disappointment. We don’t need that.”

Flames’ Francisco Madinga (R) in action against Guinea on Monday

Mario, who watched the match on television in his hotel room while in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, said  fans should appreciate that the depleted Flames squad gave their all in the match.

He said: “People for example don’t know that Dennis Chembezi was vomiting the whole day. He was sick but he still went on to play. Other players were playing out of their positions and they were fantastic.

“We need people to be behind us and be able to see the positive things such as that we have started creating chances; we worked very hard and the team spirit was fantastic.”

The Romanian noted that Malawi players are still young saying: “We need to help to get to the stage we want them. We need to have patience. We need to nurture them. They are kids. They are still on the learning curve.”

“So let’s be gentle rather than setting this high target for them. Yes, we want to achieve things but don’t put pressure on unrealistic targets.”

In the Guinea match the Flames launched 80 attacks, 20 of them good enough to translate into a goal.

They had nine shots on goal, one off target, two blocked and six on target, of which four, were saved by Guinea goalkeeper.

The Flames created a single one-on-one chance when Yamikani Chester shot directly into the palms of the goalkeeper.

Despite having the upper hand, Malawi still went on to concede a goal in the 36th minute.

The 2021 Afcon will see group winners and runners up automatically qualifying for the final.

Since the tournament has six groups, the last four slots will be filled by third best placed teams. 

With Guinea and Senegal coming first and second respectively and the Flames lying third, Malawi will find it difficult to finish above the two teams.

The Flames face fourth-placed Zimbabwe who lost to Senegal.

Mario said making it as group leaders or even as runners-up was out of the question.

He said: “I think it would be unrealistic to say we can make it to the knockout stage as Group B winners or runners up. It’s something to have a wish and to have a dream.

“We have to accept that Senegal and Guinea are very good teams with very good squad. If you look at their players they are in top teams like Liverpool who are Champions League winners.”

But analyst David Kanyenda in a post on his Facebook page, felt playing well was not something to be proud of after failing to score.

He said: “The teams were almost at par technically. But they edged us slightly with their composure and emotional intelligence. Every chance won’t amount to a goal but Chester should have been more clinical in those one-on-one situations. In tournament football, it’s not enough to play well.

“What’s key is to obtain points even the ugly way. Better to win playing lousy than lose with sexy footie. It was a must-not-lose game rather than a must-win game. So naturally the loss is a terrible result and reduces our progression prospects.”

Kanyenda, however, applauded the Flames for their fighting spirit despite the loss.

“Only the keeper’s reflexes spared Guinea’s blushes. But then if you don’t take your chances, you get punished and with only their 1st shot on target they stole the lead. The complexion of the match got altered, desperation crept in and those long, high as well as handsome balls never looked like breaching the Syli Nationale backline.”

The Flames next match is on Friday against Zimbabwe before wrapping up the group stage against Senegal on January 18.

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