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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Malawi refuse to single out Orlando Pirates’ Mhango

20:14 EAT 24/01/2022
Gabadinho Mhango of Malawi and Orlando Pirates.
The Flames’ head coach Mario Marinica believes the Buccaneers star is only as strong as the team around him

Malawi head coach Mario Marinica has refused to singe out Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango for indivudal praise ahead of the Flames’ Africa Cup of Nations Last 16 tie with Morocco, and has insisted that the team is more important than any single talent.

Mhango was chiefly responsible for securing Malawi’s passage to the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in their history when he bagged a double to see off Zimbabwe 2-1 in the group stage.

However, despite the Pirates hero’s star turn at the Nations Cup, Marinica has insisted that it’s only through unity that the Cosafa minnows will progress to the quarter-finals.

“I don’t want to single out players,” Marinica told GOAL. "We are a team, we want our players to be at right players at right time, and Gaba is one of those.

“However, that has to be achieved through teamwork and determination,” he added. “You obviously have attackers to score, defenders to defend, midfielders to build up, goalkeepers to save, but at the end of the day, you have a team.

“The whole team must work. Anyone can spark, but as a team, we have a better chance than if we single out individual achievements.

“Of course, we have individuals like him who can make a difference, we want him to do that, but it all comes through teamwork.”

The Flames have been one of the surprise packages of the Nations Cup so far, having advanced through the group stages while the likes of Morocco and Ghana have fallen at the first hurdle.

As well as victory over Zimbabwe, they managed to hold Senegal 0-0 in their final group game, taking four points to progress having lost to Guinea in their opener.

Nonetheless, they find themselves outsiders against Morocco in the quarters, without the Atlas Lions taking seven points from their group games against Ghana (win), Comoros (win), and Gabon (draw).

“I don’t know if Morocco have Many weaknesses,” Marinica continued. “Defensively they are very strong, they’re the most in-form team, they have fantastic players across Europe, they play very good football and have a very good coach.

“I can’t see many weaknesses, but we just have to play as well as we can."

This is Malawi’s third appearance at the Nations Cup, having featured in 1984 and 2010.

While they won one match at the tournament 12 years ago, this is the first time the Flames have ever reached the knockout stages of the biennial continental showpiece.