Malawi National Football Team, the Flames will this evening kick off the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualification campaign against Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions in Yaoundé, hoping to end their away jinx against the west African giants.
It is 26 years since Malawi took a point from Cameroon in Yaoundé. In 1995 when the Flames held the West Africans to a 0-0 draw in African Cup of Nations (Afcon) before losing 3-1 at home.
The last time Malawi were in Yaoundé, was in 2018 when they lost to the Indomitable Lions 1-0 in an Afcon qualifier and the return leg at Kamuzu Stadium ended in a stalemate.
That time the team was under Belgian Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG), but this time, The Flames legend Meck Mwase is in charge.
The coach sounded confident in an interview from Yaoundé as he was about to take his charges on the last session ahead of this evening’s match.
He said: “Everything is looking good. The players are in good shape. The morale is high.”
The coach, however, was aware of the tough task ahead of the team that boasts of some of the best players on the continent.
He said: “We expect a very tough game, knowing that we are playing away. But I can assure you that we are ready for the game. The boys are ready.”
The Flames squad has not changed much since that narrow loss to the Indomitable Lions.
The Flames still have on-field leader of South Africa’s AmaZulu’s Limbikani Mvaza, who made his return to the team in the last two Afcon qualifiers this year, two years after his fall out with RVG.
His leadership and charisma will be crucial this evening as he marshals the central defence with Sheriff Tiraspol’s Charles Petro while Mighty Wanderers’ Stanley Sanudi will be on the right back position.
Mzava said: “Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow’s match. We will go flat-out for maximum points. It is important for us. We ready started well by qualifying for the Afcon. We just need to continue from there in the World Cup as well.”
Mwase’s headache is to find replacement for injured left-back Precious Sambani.
But this evening Nyasa Big Bullets’ Gomezgani Chirwa will be the likely candidate to take up the role.
On attacking midfielders, Mwase is spoiled for options with Mozambique-based John CJ Banda, Baroka midfielder Gerald Phiri Jnr, Simba’s Peter Banda, FC Dilla’s Francisco Madinga and Nyasa Big Bullets’ Chimwemwe Idana all available for the attacking roles.
On defending midfielders, Mwase has Red Lions’ Chikoti Chirwa and Omon Aradipou’s Tawonga Chimodzi.
Orlando Pirates’ Frank Gabadinho is also making a return after missing the last Afcon qualifier against Uganda due to suspension.
Baroka FC’s striker Richard Mbulu, whose goal against Uganda helped Malawi book a place to the Afcon finals, is expected to partner Gaba who is more lethal when breaking from the left and drifting inside.
Polokwane City’s Khuda Muyaba might also be given a green light to start in the three-pronged attack on the right alongside Gaba and Mbulu.
In goals, it is likely that Mwase will go for experienced Ernest Kakhobwe ahead of Brighton Munthali and Richard Chipuwa who last had a fling with the Flames in 2019.
Cameroon coach Antonio Conceição, on the other hand, will miss France-based Nantes defender Jean-Charles Castelleto and Cyprus’ Apollon Imassol midfielder Arnaud Djoum due to injuries.
Fulham’s André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who has just completed a loan move from Villa Real to Napoli, is also ruled out as he is finalising his deal.
But the coach still has most of his stars led by China-based Shanghai Shenhua’s Christian MougangBassogog, Bayern Munich striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, BSC Young Boys’ Nicolas Brice Moumi Ngamaleu, Football Club Botomani’s Joyskim Dawa, Clermont Foot’s Jean-Claude Bilong, RC Lens’ Ignatius Ganago, Angers SCO’s Stéphane Bahoken, Gent’s Michael Ngadeu and Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi.
29 Jun 1980 Cameroon v Malawi 3-0 World Cup
20 Jul 1980 Malawi v Cameroon 1-1 World Cup
11 Aug 1987 Malawi v Cameroon 3-1 African Games
08 Jan 1995 Cameroon v Malawi 0-0 Afcon
16 Jul 1995 Malawi v Cameroon 1-3 Afcon
12 Oct 2018 Cameroon v Malawi 1-0 Afcon 16 Oct 2018 Malawi v Cameroon 0-0 Afcon.