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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: We’re doing it for Bafana, claims Malawi’s Banda

06:19 EAT 25/01/2022
John Banda of Malawi and Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona.
The Flames are the last Cosafa team standing at the Africa Cup of Nations

Following Comoros’ elimination by Cameroon on Monday evening, Malawi find themselves as the last Cosafa side still standing in the Africa Cup of Nations…and the Flames are doing it for the whole of the region on the continent’s grandest stage.

Heading into the Round of 16, Malawi and Comoros were the region’s only two sides still active in the tournament, with Zimbabwe—Cosafa’s third representative—falling in the group stage following defeat by the Flames.

Traditional heavyweights South Africa, Angola and Zambia failed to qualify for the tournament, while recent qualifiers such as Namibia and Tanzania also missed out on returning to the continent’s grandest stage.

Midfielder John Banda has announced that the southern African side are happy taking on the mantle of the region’s only representatives.

“We know we’re the only team remaining from Cosafa,” he told GOAL. “Finally, we can still stand for the rest of them.

“We’re representing our friends who aren’t here--Mozambique, South Africa and the like—they can rely on us and we will make them proud.”

Banda will likely be part of the Malawi team who take on Morocco at the Stade Ahamadou Ahidjo, Yaounde on Tuesday in the country’s first ever knockout game at the Nations Cup.

While the Flames have twice previously featured at the tournament, victory over Cosafa rivals Zimbabwe in the group stage was enough to see them through to the knockouts for the first time, even without considering their 0-0 draw with Senegal in their final group game.

However, they are firm outsiders against a Morocco side who took seven points from a group containing Ghana, Gabon and Comoros.

“This is the game of our lives, and we’ll do all we can to win,” Banda continued. “As players, we know what is at stake if we go to another round.

“We know how important the game is, we are really ready, determined and we can reach another stage.”

To date, South Africa and Zambia remain the only Cosafa sides to have won the Nations Cup, with Bafana Bafana clinching the title in 1996—the famous Nation Builders—and Zambia clinching the crown 16 years later in Gabon.

Comoros have also done the region proud during the ongoing tournament, eliminating four-time champions Ghana in the group stage before falling to Cameroon by a narrow 2-1 scoreline on Monday evening despite heading into the fixture without a recognised goalkeeper.