It has been a rocky ride characterised by bouts of despair, but the Flames have vowed to break the curse and come out of the Stallions’ stable in Ouagadougou unscathed tonight.
The Malawi national football team faces Burkina Faso in a 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at Stade du 4 Août from 10pm (Malawi time) hoping to register their first win against the Burkinabes.
The two teams have met four times with the Stallions coming out triumphant thrice while the other match ended in a one-all draw in 2000—two decades ago to be precise.
Malawi last played Burkina Faso in a joint 2010 World Cup and Afcon qualifier at the same venue in which the Stallions won 1-0.
However, Flames coach Meck Mwase yesterday said they are hoping to haul themselves out of the mire and grind a result from the showdown.
He said: “Despite the travel challenges we have encountered, we are determined to fight for all the points on offer.
“If we get a point, it won’t be bad considering that we’ll be playing away.”
The Flames gaffer said the focus is to lift the players’ spirits in the countdown to the match.
“What happened is unfortunate. It is such things that affect the performance of the team, but we are determined to put that aside and focus on the mission at hand,” said Mwase in an interview from Ethiopia yesterday before connecting to Ouagadougou.
Commenting on the game plan, Mwase said they will be “a bit cautious” while hoping to catch the Stallions on the break.
“We have seen the way they [Burkina Faso] play. We have done some homework on them by watching videos of their recent matches and analysing their approach and style. We have an idea of what to expect from them,” said the Malawi mentor.
He also said playing in an empty stadium will ease pressure on his charges who struggle to chalk positive results away.
On his part, Flames captain John ‘CJ’ Banda said they do not want to use the travel woes as an excuse for tomorrow’s clash.
He said: “Of course, it is something that should not be allowed to happen and I hope our bosses have learnt their lessons from this experience.
“But we have put that aside and focus has rightly shifted to tomorrow’s assignment and we are determined to fight to the very end.”
In the absence of injured South Africa-based forward Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, the Flames will look up to on song striker Richard Mbulu, who is currently the leading scorer in the South African top-flight. Yamikani Chester, Phiri and Schumacher Kuwali could be the other potential match winners.
Football Association of Malawi executive member Rashid Mtelera, who is the leader of delegation, said the Flames will get the feel of the match venue tonight after some rest.
Burkina Faso coach Kamou Malo has included 15 overseas-based players in his squad.
He will bank his hopes on winger Traoré Bertrand who turns out for English Premiership side Aston Villa. The other notable names in his squad are Tapsoba Edmond (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany), Bayala Cyrille (Lens, France), Bandaogo Abdou (Betis, Spain) and Traoré Franck (Ajax, Netherlands).
The Flames are third in Group H with three points from two games. Uganda’s Cranes lead the group with four points. They are tied with second-placed Burkina Faso, but are separated by goal difference.
South Sudan anchor the four-team group with no point. Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the tournament .