After many disappointments of Malawi national football team failing to go past the preliminary rounds of major tournament qualifiers, fans finally were in jubilant mood on Tuesday after a late goal from the penalty from Gerald Phiri Jnr was all it required for the Flames to qualify for the group qualifying stages of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
They have qualified at 1-0 aggregate score after a goal-less first leg played in Botswana last Saturday.
First Kamuzu Stadium erupted into fire when the Flames were awarded a penalty after a foul in the box and as Phiri, nicknamed Papa, was getting ready to take, the fans went quiet before erupting into a frenzy of celebration when he converted.
From then on the Flames were given maximum vocal support as the clock ticked away in order to inspire the lads to be more focused since if Botswana had equalised, they would have gone through on away goal aggregate.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) presiden Walter Nyamilandu was over the moon as this was a huge relief for him because the Flames’ poor results in the past few years have been attributed to his overstay in office.
He told Nyasa Times during the postmatch interviews that the team has great potential to deliver killer punches and just need for them to continue playing together and the group stages òffer that opportunity.
“This is a very proud moment for me because Botswana were not pushovers by far,” he said.
“There is still more work to be done and we will make sure they receive as much support as possible because the road is still tough for the group stages.”
The Flames now join 14 other winners from the preliminary round, who will joined by 26 Nations that were seeded.
They will be divided into 10 groups of four teams each and at the end of the group stage, the 10 group winners will be paired, based on ranking, to compete in a two-legged play-off round.
During this group stage, the 5 higher ranked teams will play the first legs away and five winners from the group’s will represent Africa at the FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Qatar in 2022.
Captain John Banda said he was very happy to have appeased the fans over the disappointment of failing to go past the same stage during the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier against Tanzania.
The captain together with Chimango and Kaira ohn Band striker Gabadinho Mhango, defender Stanley Sanudi and midfielder Gerald Phiri Jnr — are the remnants of the then coach Ernest Mtawali’s squad that lost 1-2 on aggregate against the Taifa Stars in which they first lost 0-2 away and won 1-0 at home.
He said it was very pleasing to hear the fans chanting them on throughout the match and that’s he encouraged his team mates to stay focused.
“Now that we are through, I hope we can be accorded the opportunity of playing friendlies against top sides ahead of the group stages and in between,” he said.
Other results are as follows:
Tanzania 1-1 Burundi (Agg 2-2)
Tanzania advance to the group stages with 3-0 penalties win.
Lesotho 1-1 Ethiopia (Agg 1-1)
Eq. Guinea 1-0 South Sudan (Agg 2-1)
Equatorial Guinea through
Sierra Leone 1-0 Liberia (Agg 2-3)
eSwatini 0-0 Djibouti (Agg 1-2)
Zimbabwe 3-1 Somalia (Agg 3-2)
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