Malawi National Football Team made history at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) when they managed to reach the 16th round – the furthest The Flames have ever reached in the cup. This is an incredible achievement and has given fans hope that the team, after years of relative obscurity, could be set for European or even world success.
The Flames took time to warm up in the early stages of the AFCON, but once they did, there seemed to be no stopping them. Despite losing to Guinea 1-0 in their opening match, Malawi bounced back to see a 2-1 victory over Zimbabwe and a draw with 2019 AFCON finalists Senegal. The latter result followed a tremendous performance, where the team put up a strong fight.
But The Flames’ celebrations were cut short when they lost out to Morocco 2-1 at the 16th stage. Nevertheless, this marked a historic achievement for the team and has given rise to hope of a promising future ahead.
Malawi’s recent impressive performance has given fans aspirations that the team might be on the up. The Flames have only qualified for the AFCON three times in their existence, the last time being 2010 – almost three decades on from their previous qualification.
Following the most recent accomplishment, could Malawi be on course for its first ever FIFA World Cup? While the team hasn’t qualified for this year’s event, its sudden rise to success since the appointment of manager Mario Marinica in December certainly looks promising. If you were a betting person who goes on sites such as the online casino NetBet platform, you’d probably consider Malawi as an outside shot.
Striker Gabadinho Mhango played beautifully against Morocco in the knock-out stage of the AFCON. The 29-year-old managed an outstanding 40-yard strike, giving the team an early shock lead. Mhango’s impressive goal was hailed by media outlets worldwide. Sky Sports News tweeted a video of Mhango’s strike, captioning it “The best goal you will see at #AFCON”, while a British newspaper described it as a “magical intervention”.
The only current Malawi player to rank above Mhango in the team’s all-time top goal scorers is fellow striker Chiukepo Msowoya. It’s been suggested that Msowoya could be the very man to bring the team forward to successive victories. However, at the age of 33, Msowoya is entering the latter stages of his career.
Having only taken over the management of the Malawi National Team in 2021, it’s conceivable that Mario Marinica’s influence could have helped the team’s recent success. The Romanian former player only took on the role in December and has already managed to lead the team to a historic milestone. Could Marinica be just the person to push Malawi into its first World Cup?
In the few months since taking the reins, the 57-year-old has wasted no time in reorganising the team, having brought in defender Lawrence Chaziya, midfielder Zebron Kalima, and goalkeeper Charles Thomu.
Marinica also took time in honing the team’s pitch strategy, encouraging them to adopt a more direct and fast-attacking way of playing. When it comes to management, Marinica has extensive experience dating back over 20 years, which can only go towards helping the Malawi National Team further.
The Flames’ improvement in their performance over the last few months has been monumental. There is no doubt that the appointment of Marinica has boosted their performance, but whether the team’s star continues to rise remains to be seen.