Flames interim coach Meke Mwase says he will rest the bulk of his key players in today’s dead rubber Cosafa Cup Group B fixture against Mozambique’s Mambas at King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban, South Africa.
The rested players are expected to lie in ambush for the quarter-final clash against seeded Zambia’s Chipolopolo, who join the regional football tournament in the knockout stage on Saturday.
“I will try to give every player in the team, a chance to at least play a game. We have to do this also to help the players that featured in the first two matches to recover as we prepare for the quarter-final clash against Zambia on Saturday,” said Mwase whose full-time job is TN Stars coach.
In the 2-1 victory against Namibia, Mwase maintained the team that thrashed Seychelles 3-0.
Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, defenders Precious Sambani, Stanley Sanudi, Charles Petro and Peter Cholopi; midfielders John ‘CJ’ Banda, and Chimwemwe Idana and striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango have so far played full games at the tournament.
Richard Mbulu, Duncan Nyoni and Micium Mhone were substituted and in their place, Mwase introduced Chawanangwa Kawonga, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Mike Mkwate and Peter Banda. These are likely to be in the Flames’ First XI today.
Substitute goalkeeper Brighton Munthali, defenders Dennis Chembezi, Chikoti Chirwa and Gomezgani Chirwa and striker Hassan Kajoke, who are yet to test action, also stand a chance of starting against Mozambique.
In head-to-head stats, Mozambique and Malawi have met 25 times. The Flames have recorded 10 victories against the Mambas’ eight, while seven games ended in stalemate.
After facing early exit from the competition, this afternoon the Mambas will be fighting for pride, according to their coach Abel Xavier.
But Mwase said the decision to rest some players does not mean they will not aim for a clean sheet.
“Although we have already qualified for the quarter-finals, we still want to maintain our unbeaten record. That will give us morale when we face Zambia this Saturday,” he said.
While playing three games might seem a disadvantage to the Flames, captain Banda, who was man-of-the-match in the game against Namibia, said the situation could also be a blessing in disguise.
“It’s actually an advantage for us because we are hot having played two games and won. We also have more time to rest before the quarter-final,” he said.
On Malawi’s opponents in the quarter-final, CJ Banda asked the nation to have belief in the team.
“We are happy to play Zambia. We are ready for them. It’s one step at a time. We wanted to be in the quarter-finals and here we are,” he said.
There is no love lost between Malawi and Zambia’s Chipolopolo. Just last month, the Zambians knocked out Malawi in the Under-23 in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) under Mwase.
Zambia stand-in coach Aggrey Chiyangi has named locals for the squad, including Zesco United forward Lazarus Kambole, Ernest Mbewe, Kelvin Kampamba, Bruce Musakanya and Tapson Kaseba, among high performing players in the local league.
Ironically, the last time the two sides clashed at the Cosafa Cup was in 2015 when Malawi beat the Chipolopolo in Cosafa Plate final.
Zambia last won the Cosafa Cup in 2013, but have finished as runners-up in the past two tournaments. Malawi have never won the cup, but have been in the finals twice.