Confusion in Luanda. Algeria, the favourite team, was drastically thrashed (3-0) by an unrelenting and surprisingly strong Malawi team. The CAN began on a bad footing for the Fennecs.
The Flames of Malawi burned with pride on Monday in their opening match against Algeria. Occupying a nondescript 99th position on the latest FIFA rankings, they were officially no match for Meghni, Bougherra, Ziani and the other Algerian players, including Yahia. In fact, they were the underdogs.
Before the start of the game the team could only name players like Russel Mwafulirwa (IFK Norköpping), Elvis Kafoteka (ESCOM United), Davie Banda (Red Lions)…
But the names of these ’virtually unknown’ players, before the beginning of this Twenty-seventh African Cup of Nations, will have to be retained.
Malawi has since dealt a rather embarrassing blow to the North Africans.
On top form and well grounded, Kinnah Phiri’s men were the masters of a puppet show, in the first round, during which a totally surprised Algerian squad saw a multitude of balls sail through its net.
Cool, calm and collected, the Flames perfectly sailed through the first half. Virtually unknown before the tournament, Malawi had only 45 minutes to prove its worth.
The three goals from Mwafulirwa, Kafoteka and Banda highlighted the defensive shortcomings of the Algerians, especially during the first half when Chaouchi completely misses a beautiful opportunity to clear a ball... His error paves the path for Russell who only had to tap the ball into the net before a dumbfounded Bougherra (1-0, 17).
Bougherra recidivates and digs the Algerians’ grave after the half time with a foul which gives Banda the golden opportunity (3-0, 46th). Before then, though, Kafoteka had already kicked one through (2-0, 35th).
After that came the off target strikes from the Fennecs: Belhadj, Ziani, Ziaya Bougherra followed in succession to test Sanudi, the talented goalie from Malawi.
With yesterday’s Mali miracle light years away, Algeria had no choice but bow out with respect.
Severely punished by the Malawi underdogs, there is no room for the slightest mistake on the part of the Fennecs in the next round. The Flames, on the other hand, are looking at the brighter side of the tournament.
A predetermined match in light of the FIFA rankings failed to materialise. In fact, the Algerians were unable to pose any real threat to the Malawians. Does pride come before a fall? One, two, three ... Viva Malawi!