Flames captain John ‘CJ’ Banda says they will have no excuse if they fail to beat Burkina Faso this afternoon in a 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Malawi national football team hosts the Stallions four days after being doused 3-1 in Ouagadougou on Thursday.
The Flames are third with three points from three matches. Burkina Faso top the group with seven points. They are tied with second-placed Uganda Cranes, but are separated by goal difference.
South Sudan anchor the four-team group with no point.
Said Banda: “We still have a good chance of qualifying because we trail the joint leaders by four points and if we win on Monday [today], we’ll have six points and we’ll not be far off.
“We have to rise to the occasion and do well on Monday. We cannot keep on coming up with excuses.
“But we [players] are the ones to blame for failing to win Thursday’s match because we did not do the needful and we cannot keep on coming up with excuses.
“Anyway, the first match is now history and we need to switch focus to Monday’s game.”
The Flames skipper also conceded that it will not be easy to turn the tables against the Burkinabes.
“We are aware that they are a good side and it will take extra effort from us to beat them, but we are determined,” he said.
On his part, Flames coach Meck Mwase yesterday said they are hoping to haul themselves out of the mire and grind a win.
He said: “We do not have any other option. It is a must-win game for us.
“The boys are aware of the importance of this match and they are eager to fight and rescue their campaign.”
The Flames gaffer also said they will go flat out and attack from the word go.
“We are playing at home and the approach will be to attack. We have nothing to lose, but we’ll also have to be cautious in our approach,” said the former Flames centre-back.
On the impact of the absence of fans, Mwase drew a long breath and said: “Of course, playing in front of the fans gives the home team an edge, but in this case, we’ll not have such luxury.
“However, it could also turn into a blessing as the boys will not be under pressure,” he said.
US-based midfielder Yamikani Chester, on song South Africa-based forward Richard Mbulu and his Baroka FC teammate Gerald Phiri Jnr carry the hopes for the Flames.
The Stallions flew into the country at midnight on Saturday and got the feel of the match venue yesterday afternoon.
Their coach Kamou Malo was not available for comment yesterday, but he was quoted by LeFaso.net as having said that they anticipate a tough match today.
He said: “But our approach will not be any different [from the previous match]. We are going there to win, but we have to be mindful that we’ll be playing away.”
The Stallions will, among others, bank their hopes on England-based winger Bertrand Traoré, who plays for English Premiership side Aston Villa and AFC Ajax forward Lassina Traore, who scored a brace in Thursday’s match.
The two teams have met five times with the Stallions coming out triumphant on four occasions while the other ended in a one-all draw way back in 2000—two decades ago to be precise.