South Africa, the team that Malawi national football team will play against in the quarterfinals if the Flames become top of their Group B of the 2016 Cosafa Castle Cup in Namibia, is reportedly to have selected a strong squad ahead of the tournament from June 11−25.
The Flames will start their Cosafa campaign against Angola in Group B that also has Lesotho and Mauritius.
Group A features Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Seychelles and one of the surprise packages from 2015, Madagascar.
South Africa are seeded for the quarterfinals together with defending champions Namibia, last year’s runners-up Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia.
The tournament has a guest nation in DR Congo, who are also seeded for the quarterfinals.
South Africa are being billed as the tournament’s favourites. Their coach Shakes Mashaba has included a number of players with previous international experience, including defenders Rivaldo Coetzee and Kwanda Mngonyama, midfielder Phumlani Ntshangase and forward Keagan Dolly.
He has included two players plying their trade in Europe – France−based striker Lebo Mothiba (Lille) and Lebogang Phiri (Brondby), who plays in Denmark.
These players are expected to be part of the South African team that will compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in August.
At the Cosafa tournament, the hosts Namibia begin their title defence with a quarterfinal clash against Botswana, while Zambia date winners of Group A.
According to the Cosafa website, the quarterfinal losers will then participate in the Plate competition that was first introduced in 2013 and was won by the Flames last year.
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) president Walter Nyamilandu, has urged the youthful Flames squad to fight their lungs out and defeat Zimbabwe in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier to be played this weekend.
“Take this game very seriously because it wil be a game changer for you,” he said on Tuesday when the team received a timely funding of K50 million for the Zimbabwe game as well as for the Cosafa.
“Walk the talk and take the bull by the horn, the country is expecting a good result after failing to register a win in this Nations Cup campaign.
“Zimbabwe might be considering you as underdogs but go and surprise them. If you win against Zimbabwe, then it will boost your morale for the Cosafa tournament.
“Show that the team’s rebuilding exercise is a success by beating Zimbabwe and winning the Cosafa title,” he said.
The Cosafa Castle Cup was launched in 1997 and very quickly became one of the most exciting competitions on the African soccer calendar.
The emergence of the southern African regional tournament has also helped the rise to prominence and the growth in strength of the region’s soccer.
It has given the Cosafa member countries opportunities to increase their international profile and seek further success on other stages, like that of the African Nations Cup finals and the World Cup finals.
Zambia and Zimbabwe have each claimed four titles each, with South Africa and Angola three-time winners. Namibia claimed their first championship when they won the 2015 edition.
The quarterfinals draw is as follows:
South Africa vs Winner Group B
Botswana vs Namibia
Zambia vs Winner Group A
DR Congo vs Mozambique