Ernest Mtawali wants his Malawi side to build on last year’s Plate victory at the COSAFA Castle Cup but admits they face a tougher road at the 2016 tournament in Namibia from June 11-25.
The Flames coach took over the side after last year’s COSAFA Castle Cup competition but has kept the core of that team together.
Malawi defeated Zambia in the Plate final in South Africa having been ousted in the quarterfinals of the main Cup competition by Mozambique after a narrow penalty shoot-out defeat following a 2-2 draw.
This time Malawi will have to start in the first round pool stage having not received a bye to the knockout stages and as such have to get past Angola, Lesotho and Mauritius just to enter the second week.
“There are no small teams and no easy draws in football these days so the draw we have is a tough one,” Mtawali says. “But it is something we are prepared for and we will be ready to go there and compete.
“This time round we have to play three games just to reach the quarterfinals but Namibia showed last year how that can help you to build momentum and gel as a team. They got better and better as the tournament went on.
“That is something we can look to as a positive. The key for us is to start with a positive result against Angola [on June 12] and then carry that forward to play well against Mauritius [June 14] and Lesotho [June 16].
“If we do then make it into the quarterfinals, anything can happen. We know South Africa will be waiting there for us and obviously they are a very good national team.
“But we cannot think about that now, we need to focus on our three first round matches only and build from there.”
The coach, who played in South Africa, Argentina, France and Saudi Arabia during an illustrious career, says he expects to take many of the same players that did duty in 2015 to Namibia, sprinkled in with some young up-and-coming talent.
“Most of the squad that was in South Africa last year will be with us again, they did well so we don’t need to change much. We will add in some young players to give them experience of the tournament.”
Malawi also competed in the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Cup last year as a guest nation, where they were beaten by Uganda in the quarterfinals.
Mtawali says these regional competitions such as the COSAFA Castle Cup are vital for the development of the game in the region.
“You have to have these games to keep improving as a national team, especially as the standard is high. We will have at least three matches at the COSAFA Castle Cup, maybe even six, and that will help us tremendously to grow as a team.”
Mtawali says he is also looking forward to the tournament being hosted in Namibia.
“Namibia is a fantastic country and Windhoek is a lovely city, so we are very much looking forward to our time there. The facilities will be very good and conducive to playing attacking football.”
Click here to apply for media accreditation to the COSAFA Castle Cup 2016 in Namibia.