To play beautiful football and lose or ugly and win

Malawi vs Guinea

Malawi football fans face the dilemma of choosing between a rock—sexy aesthetic football that yields defeats or a hard place—ugly Route One football that produces wins once a while.

The ugly football that Mario Marinica operated on just 27 percent of ball possession produced two Hellings Frank Gabadinho Mhango’s goals in the Flames’ 2-1 win over Ethiopia last Sunday.

Of course, the subsequent Group D 2023 AFCON qualifier in Guinea did not pan out the way coach Marinica wanted on Thursday.

The Flames came mightily so close to earning a point until Liverpool’s Naby Keita stole it late in Conakry. In that match, Malawi registered zero shots on target out of five attempts compared to 13 shots and two on target for the hosts.

You get a sense that with this fast and furious brand of football that bypasses midfield, discourages playing in your own half and thrives on pressing high up the pitch is bound to produce results. Of course once in a while.

One can only hope that the Flames players will not run off steam and fail to cope with this endless running that demands top mental and physical fitness.

Of course, some local fans have huge admiration for Ethiopia who recovered from the loss to Malawi to beat Egypt 2-0 on Thursday but I think you know how the Ethiopians fared at AFCON 2021.

Watching Ethiopia build up play from the back, exchanging passes with finesse and ease was a marvel that took the Flames fans to old days that were usually summoned up by a catch phrase: We have lost but we played well.”

If playing well earned teams trophies, cabinets of Mpira House in Chiwembe would have been overflowing with silverware for the Flames.

For a long time, football fans in Malawi were reduced to hand clappers for well executed Flames one-twos copied from Barcelona and a little more trivia such as winning corner kicks and free kicks would be greeted by loud celebratory chorus.

However, as you should know by now, no one in the Flames knows how to locate the target from a corner kick and the last player to attempt scoring from freekicks Gerald Phiri Junior seems to have lost his Midas touch. He is now probably the most unpopular player in black, red and green stripes.

The last disciple of tiki-taka football Belgian Ronny van Geneugden posted two wins in some 22 games while in charge of the Flames. 

His tenure shall forever be best forgotten as wasted years of backward and sideward non progressive passes that earned the Flames big chunks of ball possession against meaningful opposition such as Morocco and Cameroon yet produced no shots on target and obviously, no goal.

At least now, Malawi have in the last seven games across all competitions lost to Guinea twice, Morocco once, beaten Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and drawn against Senegal. It is fair to conclude that the Flames are at least able to win.  

The problem is that local fans have never had an idea of what they really want in football. They do not want the Flames to be whipping boys and when a coach knows limitations of local footballers and deploys streetwise tactics to win a game, the supporters complain again.

 

Under Marinica’s reign, the end justifies the means. His playing style—and not philosophy as he puts it—would only be deemed a success if he matches his predecessor Meck Mwase in taking the Flames to the 2023 AFCON finals. Anything short of that would be seen as failure and questions of sacrificing substance over style would persist.

 

I would rather win ugly than lose playing elegantly because football remembers winners and not minute details of passes.

 

Kulinji's Sporty Eye

Up-to-date sports analysis, insight and reviews from Kulinji.com

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