The Flames this afternoon face a defining moment in their quest to keep alive their 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification when they face unpredictable South Sudan in Khartoum, Sudan.
It is a match both sides need to win at all cost to stay in contention for qualification in Group B which also has leaders Burkina Faso and second-placed Uganda.
Malawi had lost steam on the road to Cameroon 2022 finals after dropping eight points out of a possible 12 when they lost to Uganda and Burkina Faso. They also drew against the Stallions.
But after holding Burkina Faso in the last qualifier, hope was rekindled that the Flames might just sneak into the qualifying berth, depending on results from other group members.
But for that flame of hope to be kept alight, Malawi must settle for nothing less than victory today.
The Flames need to collect maximum points from South Sudan not just to protect the third position from the group anchors, but also keep pressure on second-placed Uganda ahead of their ultimate battle on March 29.
Flames coach Meck Mwase has no excuse if the Flames fail to carry the day.
He has been in camp with his charges for two months in preparation for today’s battle.
All the players he called into camp honoured the call-up, including South Africa-based former captain Limbikani Mzava, who was the last to join camp yesterday afternoon after missing his initial flight due to an expired Covid-19 negative certificate.
The AmaZulu defender returns after a two-year absence due to various reasons, to join other South Africa-based players—Orlando Pirates striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Baroka FC duo of Gerald Phiri Jnr and Richard Mbulu and Polokwane City’s duo of in form striker Khuda Muyaba and Dennis Chembezi.
Europe-based Francisco Madinga is also looking forward to his debut after joining Georgia’s Dila Gori in 2020, having missed back-to-back qualifiers against Burkina Faso due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Madinga completed the Flames Europe-based trio alongside Moldovia’s Sheriff Tiraspol duo of Peter Banda and Charles Petro.
With 28 players at his disposal, Mwase is undoubtedly spoiled of choice.
In a pre-match interview yesterday, Mwase said: “The day is finally here. We have to fight hard and win this game, it is a must-win match for us and the only way to do that is to feature strong-minded players that are willng to fight for the team.”
On the game approach, the Flames gaffer said while they will exercise cautionas they will be playing away, they will try to balance so as to attack as well.
He also said he has no pressure whatsoever going into this afternoon’s battle.
South Sudan coach Ashu Cypriot Besong also has his full squad.
He told Cafonline.com: “We have had all players we want facilitated to join the team from their respective teams around the world.
“The morale and motivation to play for the national team is high and this is bringing good competition.”
Sudan failed to score when they lost to the Flames 1-0 through Mhango’s goal at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
But they have proved they can cause havoc after stunning Uganda 1-0 in their last qualifier.
That victory revived their hope and this afternoon, just like Malawi, they also have more to fight for in Khartoum.