Malawi/Egypt: Flames Out of Contention After Being Clobbered 4-0 By Egypt
With just 3 points from four games and with two fixtures remaining — against Guinea at home and Ethiopia away in June 2023 — the Flames might just as well forget about qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals after been clobbered 4-0 by star-studded Pharaohs of Egypt.
If they will manage to win both matches in June, which is highly unlikely, they shall garner 9 points to tie with both Egypt and Guinea — in the event that both these Group D leaders lose their upcoming assignments.
The seven-time African champions, Egypt, just need a draw in their upcoming match against Guinea in June to secure their place at the finals to be hosted by Côte d’Ivoire.
Malawi kicked off the campaign in June 2022 on a positive note after beating Ethiopia 2-1 at home but lost 0-1 away in Guinea before being beaten 0-2 in last Friday’s Match Day 3 in Cairo.
English League club Liverpool talisman, Mohamed Salah was instrumental in both of these back-to-back qualifiers, scoring in both games.
In Cairo, Mo Salah got Egypt into the lead in the 20th minute before assisting Omar Marmoush for the second and in the second leg at Bingu Stadium, the Pharaohs stunned the Flames just three minutes into the match when Mo Salah set up Tarek Hamed to shoot from outside the box shot — catching the defence unawares.
Omar Marmoush made it 2-0 after taking advantage of a poorly cleared corner by Malawi’s defence, slotting it home from close range in the 16th minute before the Liverpool star made it 3-0 after exchanging a one-two with Mostafa Mohamed before drilling a low first-time volley past goalkeeper Charles Thom.
In the 50th minute, Ahmed El Sayed added more salt to injury with the 4th goal — completely humiliating the hosts and condemning them from any chances of their 4th AFCON appearance; that is unless a miracle occurs.
What is bitter about it is that the two losses come just after the Flames travelled to Saudi Arabia for a training camp specifically to challenge the Pharaohs but in both matches, Egypt just showed they are miles ahead in as far as talent and tactical advantage is concerned.
Flames coach Mario Marinica told the media in Egypt that his charges gave the Mo Salah-led Pharaohs “too much respect” while in the same breath acknowledging that the opponent “is a big force” in African football and globally.
Just ahead of Tuesday’s match, Marinica told Fam.mw that he wasn’t under pressure, saying: “Pressure is a state of mind you put yourself under. Yes, there are situations like these, but you have to see what actually it is. You have to be calm and composed. People that are under pressure start making mistakes.
“We want to be composed and take one match at a time. We have to get as much as possible the most of our qualities. Our qualities are working hard and being determined to put the opponents under pressure.”
But that was not to be as the Flames were obviously under pressure right from the start. Marinica made five changes to the squad by starting with attackers — Stain Davie, Yamikani Chester, Peter Banda and left back Alick Lungu, with right back Stanley Sanudi, who was suspended in the first leg, also returning to the first XI.
The coach maintained goalkeeper Charles Thom, centre backs Dennis Chembezi and Lawrence Chaziya as well as captain John CJ Banda, Gabadinho Mhango — a formation that was meant to be an attacking system were playing at home.
In Cairo, Marinica opted for a 4-4-2 formation with the intention of avoiding conceding while pressing for goals as he involved goalkeeper Charles Thom with Charles Petro replacing Stanley Saudi on the right back and Gomezgani Chirwa on the left side.
Lawrence Chaziya and Denis Chembezi partnered in central defence with defending midfielder Chikoti Chirwa right in front of the two to form a triangular defence to protect Thom.
Captain John CJ Banda played as an attacking midfielder while Micium Mhone was on the right whereas Francisco Madinga was on the left wing while Gabadinho Mhango and Khuda Myaba combined upfront.
The huge changes the coach made were more suitable for a strength–testing international friendly — not to be tried out against such a star-studded Egyptian side, whose players ply their trade overseas.
Coach Rui Vitória had with him seven foreign-based legion with two top ones, Mohamed Elneny and Mahmoud Trezeguet out due to injury and joined by seven from Cairo giants Al Ahly — including Mohamed El-Shennawy, Mohamed Hany, Mohamed Abdelmonem, and Mahmoud Kahraba.
When things seemed not to work with his system, Marinica brought in Micium Mhone, taking out Chimwemwe Idana; goalkeeper Brighton Munthali replacing Thom with Gaddie Chirwa coming in for Stain Davie.
The substitutions seemed to have brought some stability as Malawi picked the pace and dominated possession but with a 3-goal cushion, the Pharaohs simply gained superiority once on possession and once they scored the 4th they were well and good.
Before the match, the Romanian tactician told Fam.mw that a bad result against a team of Egypt’s calibre is not the end of the world, saying: “As regards to the qualification, even for example if the game does not go our way — but I don’t think that will be the case — because I am positive we are prepared to get the points.
“If it goes bad for us, there is still two more games and six points to play for. And with nine points we may still qualify depending on results from the other qualifiers.”
Some wishing thinking knowing the Pharaohs, who were bitter having lost the chance for their 8th African title at the hands of Senegal in Cameroun, are certainly not leaving any stone unturned — as well as joint leaders, Guinea.