The Flames get their 2015 Cecafa Challenge Cup campaign underway in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia this afternoon with a potentially tricky Group C fixture against Sudan’s Falcons of Jediane.
The match kicks off at 3pm local time and will beam on SuperSport.
Flames coach Ernest Mtawali said in an interview from Bahir Dar yesterday they are relishing a good start which could play a major boost in their subsequent matches.
“In such tournaments, it’s always important to start on a good note because it boosts your chances of qualifying for the next round. The way we kick-start the tournament could play a vital role in determining our destiny.
“All the players are in shape and looking forward to our first match tomorrow [today]. They all appear relaxed and confident and we will give it our best shot,” said Mtawali.
The Flames arrived in Bahir Dar yesterday morning from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa where they watched the opening ceremony and matches. They were expected to get the feel of the match venue later on in the afternoon.
Revitalised forward Chiukepo Msowoya—who is the most experienced player in the Flames squad—carries the hopes for Malawi that have been thrust on his shoulders. Other key players that could make the difference are Gerald Phiri Jnr, ChimangoKayira, John Banda and Schumacher Kuwali.
Sudan’s new coach HamdanHamad will look to the country’s top players Amir Kamal, a defensive midfielder of Al Merreikh, midfielder Said Massawy, Omar Mahmoud of Ahli Club and Mohamed Kuku, a striker of AhliShendi.
Their star forward is Abdel Ankaba, who plays for Hilal and has 12 goals in the Sudanese top-flight league.
Statistically, the odds are tipped in Flames’ favour as records indicate that the two teams have met twice in the Cecafa tournament. Malawi won the first match 4-0 in November 1979 en route to defending the cup. When they met for the second time in November 2011, they settled for a goalless draw.
However, Mtawali yesterday dismissed suggestions that his side has an edge over the Falcons.
“I am not going to be drawn into mind games. Football is a dynamic game in which the tide can change anytime. So, I am not going to dwell on that,” he said.
On Fifa/Coca Cola World Rankings, The Flames are ranked 31 places above the Sudanese (128).
The Flames, who now participate as guests, have won the tournament three times (1978, ‘79 and ‘88) just like the Sudanese who won it in 1980, 2006 and 2007. Sudan were also losing finalists in 2013.