Malawi assistant coach Lovemore Fazili has confidently stated they are not afraid to come up against neighbours Zambia in the group stage of the 2021 Cosafa Cup.
The Flames were drawn in Group C of the competition that will be staged in Port Elizabeth, South Africa from July 7-18, alongside the Chipolopolo, Comoros, and Madagascar.
Six-time winners Zimbabwe are in Group D alongside guests Senegal, Mozambique, and Namibia while hosts South Africa headline Group A that also includes Lesotho, Botswana, and Eswatini.
Speaking after learning of their fate, Flames assistant coach Fazili described their group as fair and further said they are not afraid to come up against Zambia.
“We are very happy to be in the same group with Zambia,” Fazil told the Malawi FA website. “But they are not the only tough opponent, there is Comoros and Madagascar to take care of. So, we will prepare very well for all opponents.
“There is pressure for us to win this tournament for the first time, but for us, it is an opportunity to gauge ourselves ahead of the World cup qualifiers and Afcon.”
Fazil has further revealed Malawi will use mostly local-based players as their foreign stars will not make it to the squad because the tournament does not fall in an international window.
“We don’t expect to have more foreign-based players as the competition does not fall on Fifa dates. So, we will take more local players and this is an opportunity to assess them if they can be part of the Afcon project," he concluded.
Meanwhile, for Bafana Bafana, none of their Group A opponents have ever won the Cosafa Cup before, while the hosts are four-time champions and interestingly, one of their group competitors Lesotho are led by former South Africa assistant coach Thabo Senong, who has already included three Premier Soccer League players in his squad.
Midfielders Tshwarelo Bereng of Marumo Gallants FC and Black Leopards’ Tumelo Khutlang as well as Bloemfontein Celtic forward Sera Motebang are in the Lesotho squad.
Only the top team in each group and the best-placed runner-up will advance to the semi-finals in what is a change in format for the tournament this year.
That means each side is guaranteed three games up to a maximum of five, which will provide vital preparation for those national teams involved in 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers later this year.
The Cosafa Cup is making a comeback after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and it will be hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay for the first time, which has been a familiar home for other Cosafa competitions in recent years.
2021 Cosafa Cup Draw
Group A: South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Botswana.
Group B: Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar, and Comoros.
Group C: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia.