Malawi are targeting a 2019 COSAFA Cup quarterfinal against Zambia as the team seek to advance past the first round of the competition for the first time since they claimed the Plate title in 2015.
The Flames have been drawn in Group B alongside Mozambique, 2015 Cup winners Namibia and Seychelles in what looks an open pool that will be tough to call.
It is a fact backed up by Malawi coach Meke Mwase, who says while they should be confident they can advance, there will be no easy games.
“[It is] tricky in the sense that at times, we have struggled against teams like Mozambique and Namibia,” Mwase says. “So, on paper it might look fair, but realistically it could be tough as well.”
Malawi skipper John Lanjesi has been part of the squad at the last three COSAFA Cup tournaments and he took knows how difficult their task will be.
But have failed in the first round for the last three years, he adds there is a steely determination to put that right in 2019.
He adds that the team can also build on excellent recent showings against top African nations Cameroon and Morocco for inspiration.
“It is disappointing that we could not make it past the group stages in the past three editions,” Lanjesi said.
“But I believe that going by our performance in recent games, especially against Morocco and Cameroon, we have the potential to cast that spell. It will also depend on our commitment and self-belief.”
The Flames squad will likely be very similar to the one that is currently in camp for their African Nations Championship qualifier against eSwatini, against who they played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in late April.
Malawi have been runners-up in two COSAFA Cup competitions, reaching the final for the first time in 2002 and then making the decider again the following year.
Although they were beaten in both legs of the finals by South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively, the Flames have shown they are a side to be reckoned with.
Malawi did beat past winners Angola and Zambia on their way to the final in 2002 and the next year disposed of Zambia, again on penalties, in the semifinals.
Malawi have a strong record in regional competition, having also won the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup three times – in 1978, 1979 and 1988.
Last year they failed to pick up a victory in the COSAFA Cup, drawing with Angola and Botswana, but losing to Mauritius.