Though the odds are stuck against Malawi in this Saturday’s 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Morocco’s Atlas Lions, South Africa-based striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango has pleaded for a little faith in the Flames.
The Flames flew out to Morocco on Wednesday and Mhango said he was confident they can upset the tables against the Atlas Lions, who recently participated at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia where they held Spain 1-1 and narrowly lost 1-0 to Portugal.
“They [Morocco] are a team just like us. People should believe in us,” he said.
Mhango, who returns to the team after almost a year due to an injury, said preparations for the qualifier were perfect despite the Flames not playing any friendly matches.
“We have a very good team with both experienced players and youngsters who are working very hard to represent their country,” he said.
Chipping in, captain Limbikani Mzava also urged support for the Flames.
“It helps a lot when the country is behind us although we are playing away,” he said.
Coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) has named nine foreign-based professional players and 11 TNM Super League players for the qualifier.
Atusaye Nyondo, Mhango, Mzava, Richard Mbulu, John CJ Banda, Frank Banda, Gerald Phiri Junior, Charles Swini and Jabulani Linje are the foreign-based players in the squad.
Local players that have made the trip are Dennis Chembezi, Brighton Munthali, Stanley Sanudi, Rafick Namwera, Alfred Manyozo Junior, Chiukepo Msowoya, Yamikani Fodya, Gomezgani Chirwa, Precious Sambani, John Lanjesi and Patrick Phiri.
On the other hand, RVG’s counterpart, Herve Renard has assembled a strong squad as he is searching for his first full points after losing 1-0 to Cameroon who are joint leaders with Malawi.
The Flames beat Comoros 1-0 in their first qualifier at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) last year.
Renard has called up most of the players that were at the World Cup such as Mounir El Kajoui Mohamedi (Malaga, Spain), Nabil Darrar (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Ghanim Saes (Wolverhampton), Hamza Mandil (Schalke 04), Ashraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund), Youssef Ait Benasir (Monaco), Nusseir Mazraoui (Ajax Amsterdam) and Youssef Al-Nusseiri (Liganes, Spain).
Morocco will, however, be without captain Mehdi Benatia—who plays for Juventus—due to injury.
Meanwhile, Football Association fo Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu has urged the Flames players to go and die for the country.
The FAM president addressed the team on Wednesday morning at Mpira Village in Blantyre before the squad flew out to Morocco.
“This is your chance to make history. Don’t be afraid or and have inferior complex. The country believes in you. Go bring the three points.
“If we are to be counted as a good team in Africa, we have to beat the best and this is the time to be counted ,” he said.
Malawi has not beaten Morocco in the last four meetings. The Flames lost 4-1 in a 2004 World Cup qualifier, 2-0 in 2006 Afcon qualifier and 1-0 in 2007 Afcon.
The best the Flames have achieved is a one-all draw in 2004 at Kamuzu Stadium in a World Cup qualifier.
Saturday’s match will be played at Mohammed V Stadium from 10pm.