By: Andrew Cane Chilapondwa
The Flames are currently in Conakry for their crucial 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea at 28 Septembre Stadium on Friday evening.
Both teams started their opening group L matches on a poor note, with Malawi losing 2-1 to Zimbabwe at home before playing to a 2-all draw away to Swaziland whilst Guinea lost 2-1 to group leaders Swaziland before being held to 1-all draw away to Zimbabwe.
Third with a point in the group, Malawi needs to beat Guinea at all cost if they are to keep their dreams of making it to Gabon alive. Statistics shows that the Flames have never lost to their opponents, with all the three matches ending in draws.
However, the situation looks different now as the National Elephants were actively involved during the just ended CHAN tournament in Rwanda whilst the Flames were on holiday, without even playing friendly matches prior to the showdown.
It is a mammoth task for Malawi who are likely to meet a hostile reception from the local fans after spending months without watching their team playing at home due to the Ebola outbreak that forced the team to play their home games in other countries.
Head Coach Ernest Mtawali reversed the earlier re-building exercise by re-calling senior players played for the team last year in September. Veteran Joseph Kamwendo, Harry Nyirenda and Robert Ng’ambi are likely to lead the team alongside Captain Limbikani Mzava who is in top form at his club Mpumalanga Black Aces.
“We are going to fight,” Mtawali told The Malawi Star last week before departing for Guinea. We know how vital the three points are to the team so we will play our normal game in order to come back home with three points and possibly finish the job at home next Tuesday,” he said.
Before landing in Guinea, the Flames played a 1-all draw against Sierra Leone in a friendly training match in Free Town, a result described as positive by Mtawali.
He is likely to continue with goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, with Mzava, Stainley Sanudi, Nyirenda and Francis Mulimbika playing in defence. John Banda, Ng’ambi, Kamwendo and Micium Mhone are likely to play in the midfield, with Chiukepo Msowoya playing as a lone striker.
Collecting six points from the two games will keep Malawi’s chances of making it to Gabon for their third Afcon finals appearance. On the other part, Guinea will be a tough nut to crack.
Head Coach Luis Miguel Fernández Toledo has called 12 European based players for the clash knowing that any mistake is likely to end his team’s chances of making it to Gabon.
On paper, Guinea are the favourites but their history against Malawi signifies that the match can go either side. The showdown will be officiated by Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayri.