The odds are stacked against Malawi national football team as the balance of power and statistics do not favour Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG)and his troops ahead of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Morocco this evening.
If the Flames harbour dreams of winning this Group B tie, in a potentially hostile atmosphere at Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca, they must heed to the trumpet of patriotism from Football Association of Malawi (FAM).
“Go to Morocco and die for the country,” FAM president Walter Nyamilandu passionately urged the players before their departure.
Ranked 46 by Fifa against Malawi’s position 123, Morocco, nicknamed Atlas Lions, are not taking any chances.
They have assembled a galaxy of footballing stars plucked from globally known clubs under Afcon winning coach Herve Renard.
To be honest, this match might end up being a mismatch if the Flames slumber.
RVG acknowledged that Morocco is way above Malawi’s level, but said football sometimes can play in favour of the underdog.
“We stand a chance because you saw at this year’s World Cup that the underdog countries played well against big teams so the players can learn to believe that in football it’s not always the best teams that win,” he said.
The coach said if they are to come out victorious, they have to contain their passing and attacking flair.
“Morocco plays a good, high level passing game. They are also dangerous in counterattacks. We must be very strong mentally and physically.
“We will try not to play too defensively but we must work hard when Morocco has the ball,” he said.
RVG also anticipates a hostile atmosphere in the stadium.
“This is the first match Morocco is playing after the World Cup so, we expect the stadium to be fully packed. We just have to be strong from the first minute and convert the chances we will create from the counterattacks,” he said.
Malawi are Group B joint leaders having secured three points while Morocco, who lost their opening match to Cameroon are third with no point.
Cameroon face Comoros in the other Group B encounter.
But the standings might be deceiving because the Flames beat Comoros, arguably the weakest team in the group and has yet to spar with the group favourites Morocco and Cameroon, the Afcon defending champions.
In eight matches against the Atlas Lions, Malawi has only won once—in 1993.
Two of the clashes ended in a draw while Morocco won the other five, according to football records website www.11v11.com.
Interestingly the only match the Flames triumphed was an away fixture, an Afcon qualifier in 1993.
The heaviest loss the Flames have suffered was a 4-1 hammering in a World Cup qualifier in 2005.
The last time the two sides met was in 2007 when Malawi lost 1-0 at home in an Afcon qualification tie.
RVG could trust the experienced hands of Charles Swini in goals while Limbikani Mzava and John Lanjesi might be deployed in central defence while Stanley Sanudi and Previous Sambani will be flying as wing backs.
Japan-based Jabulani Linje, Gerald Phiri Junior, Rafick Namwera and and Frank Banda could pack the midfield.
The goal poaching roles could be invested in Richard Mbulu and Gabadinho Mhango while
Atusaye Nyondo and Chiukepo Msowoya will be waiting for their turn on the bench.
The winner of the group, according to the Confederations of Africa Football (CAF) arrangement, will qualify for the finals slated for Cameroon.
However, if Cameroon wins the group, the second positioned side will go through since Cameroon have already qualified as hosts.
Soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda observed that Malawi should strive for at least a draw if they are to remain in contention.