The Flames head coach Meck Mwase is confident that Malawi can cause a major upset in this afternoon’s Group D 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast’s Elephants at Orlando Stadium in South Africa.
The Flames are tied with second-placed Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions on three points, just a point behind the Elephants and victory today will add momentum to their campaign to qualify for the third and final round.
But for this dream to come true, the Flames have to be at their best as they come face to face with a team with some of the best players on the continent.
However, despite boasting of such world-class talent such English Premier League stars Nocolas Pepe (Arsenal), Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace) and Éric Bailly (Manchester United), Italy-based Serie A midfielders Franck Kessie (AC Milan) and Akpa Akpro Jean-Daniel (Lazio) and captain Serge Aurier (Villarreal), Ivory Coast have a weakness.
The Ivorians need more time to gel unlike the Flames who have played together for over five years now. No wonder as a team, the Elephants have struggled on the road of late and have not scored in two outings as witnessed by a draw against Mozambique’s Mambas.
Once ranked among the world’s best 10 teams, the Elephants have dropped to position 54 on Fifa world rankings and eighth in Africa.
Mwase on Thursday said it will boil down to the team’s attitude when they take on the Elephants.
He said: “We have hope. Football is all about hope. We are definitely looking for a win. They have big name players, but we will have to do our best to beat them.”
But statistics do not favour the Flames who have only beaten Ivory Coast once in 1974 in an international friendly.
The last time the two sides met was in 2009 when they drew one-all at Kamuzu Stadium in a joint 2010 World Cup and African Cup Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
The coach has named 12 foreign-based players, including defender Charles Petro (Sherrif Tiraspol—Moldova) and midfielder Fransisco Madinga (Dira Goli—Georgia), South Africa-based Mzava (AmaZulu), Dennis Chembezi (Polokwane City), Richard Mbulu and Gerald Phiri Jnr (Baroka FC), Gabadinho Mhango (Orlando Pirates), Mike Mkwate and Khuda Muyaba (Polokwane FC), Tanzania-based duo of Peter Banda and Duncan Nyoni (Simba SC) and Mozambique-based John ‘CJ’ Banda (UD Songo).
But Mwase said playing at Orlando Stadium will not have an effect on the team.
He said: “Of course, we would have loved to play Ivory Coast at Kamuzu Stadium where they struggled the last time we hosted them. But there is nothing we can do about it.
“We played Mozambique at Orlando Stadium Stadium and we beat them. This time we are also looking forward to the same against Ivory Coast.”
His counterpart Patrice Beaumelle has also not rested on his laurels ahead of the match.
The former Zambian coach on Monday told a press briefing in Abidjan that he “knows Malawi very well”, having played against the Flames 10 times during his five years stint with Chipolopolo.
He said: “I watched the match they played against Cameroon. It’s a dangerous team that is always in the rush. If we are not 100 percent careful, we will have problems that’s for sure. I have a lot of respect for them.”