The 0 – 1 loss to Guinea followed by the impressive 2 – 1 win over Zimbabwe and the hard-fought 0 – 0 draw against Africa’s top ranked team Senegal earned Malawi as best third-placed team to qualify for their first-ever knockout stages.
This follows results in Group D on Wednesday night in which Nigeria beat Guinea-Bissau 2 – 0 while Egypt beat Sudan 1 – 0.
According to fixtures posted on skysports.com, the Flames date Morocco on Tuesday, January 25.
The winners between Morocco and Flames will date the winners of the Round of 16 between Egypt and Group E winners (Côte d’Ivoire/Equatorial Guinea).
The Atlas Lions qualified after finishing top of Group C in which they won two and drew 2-2 with Gabon in their last match to garner 7 points.
In that group, Comoros made history by sending giants Ghana from the tournament with a 3-2 last match triumph moving into 4th position waiting for the results of last two groups to advance as of the best third.
Morocco, who have made 5 appearances at the World Cup with a beat result of the knockout stages of Round of 16 in 1986, only managed to lift the AFCON once in 1976 — having qualified for 18 times.
The Atlas Lions are also twice champions of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) in 2018 and 2020 after four appearance — first in 2014. CHAN is for local league players that was rolled out in 2007.
The Flames, in their first AFCON appearance in 1984 in Côte d’Ivoire, made a huge impression when they led 2-0 against Super Eagles of Nigeria but the game ended 2-2. They lost 0-1 against Ghana and 0-3 against Algeria.
In their second in Angola in 2010, they stirred some excitement in their opening game when they beat north African giants Tunisia 3-1 but lost their consequent matches — 0-2 against the hosts Angola and 1-3 against Mali.
Having had 3 points, Malawi needed a draw to reach their first-ever quarter-final qualification.
Also set to make record is the Flames forward Gabadinho, whose brilliant performance earned his country a well deserved 2-1 win on southern African neighbours Zimbabwe — a performance that won him Man of the Match award after scoring both goals.
Gaba’s brace also earned earned him as the second Malawian player to score two goals at the AFCON after Russell Mwafulirwa in 2010 and he is set to become Malawi’s top goal-scorer in their history in the competition if he scores against Morocco and consequent matches in Cameroun.
Against Senegal, Malawi also won the Man of the Match award through the brilliant performance of second choice goalkeeper, Charles Thom against the number one team in Africa with a star-studded side of European legion led by Kalidou Koulibaly of Naples in France and Sadio Mane (Liverpool, England).
Senegal also had goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who plays for Chelsea and was voted as FIFA’s best last month while others were Saliou Ciss (Nancy-Lorraine, France), Idrissa Gueye (PSG, France), Cheikhou Kouyate (Crystal Palace, England), Boulaye Dia (Villarreal, Spain), Mouhamadou Diallo (RC Strasbourg, France), Bouna Sarr (Bayern Munich, Germany), Abdou Diallo (PSG) — but the Flames were undeterred as they pushed the Teranga Lions to the limit.
Fans back home were sceptical if Thom — who was called to duty as replacement to resurgent Flames first choice goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe – down with malaria — would save the Flames in his competitive international debut but the 22-year-old defied all odds and produced the best of him probably ever to frustrate the number one team in Africa.
But Thom was humble when he received the Man of the Match award and consequent rewards, saying “the biggest recognition should go to the whole team for the effort to get these results” — and this surely manifested in all three previous matches.
The Flames were given few chances ahead of their opening match against Guinea, but after a brilliant performance in which they wasted countless of chances, the pundits opened their eyes in awe of the Flames though they lost 0 – 1.
It seemed that way when the Flames were hit with a terrific goal by Ismael Wadi in the 35th minute but Gaba disappointed the Warriors when he stole in from the blind side to tap home a brilliant cross from Francisco Madinga.
Madinga was touted by match commentators as the probable man of the match as he was almost everywhere — in attack; defending as well as in accurate passing of the ball — while against Senegal it was defender Stanley Sanudi who was a silent hero when he made Sadio Mane look second best.
All in all, just as midfielder John Banda said ahead of Senegal being touted as favourites, Morocco also look good on paper while the Flames must be galvanized that everything is possible if they work as a team.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :