Flames captain Limbikani Mzava says they are not intimidated by Ivory Coast’s all-star squad ahead of their 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier tomorrow in South Africa.
Malawi National Football Team hosts the Elephants at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg following Confederation of African Football (CAF) decision to ban Bingu National Stadium from hosting the World Cup qualifiers. The return leg is slated for Benin as Ivory Coast’s home, four days later.
Ivory Coast coach Patrice Beaumelle has named a 30-member predominantly Europe-based squad which includes English Premier League stars Nocolas Pepe (Arsenal), Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace) and Éric Bailly (Manchester United).
It also includes Italy-based Serie A midfielders Franck Kessie (AC Milan) and Akpa Akpro Jean-Daniel (Lazio).
But sounding calm in an interview from Johannesburg yesterday, Mzava said: “Names should not strike fear in our hearts. They [Ivory coast] are a good side, but we will take them on, we will give our all.”
The Flames skipper, who is the longest serving member of the squad, said with a good approach and determination, Malawi are capable of getting a result.
However, Mzava was not amused with the team’s preparations, saying: “We are only expected to have a full squad later today [yesterday] and that means we’ll only train on Thursday [today], just a day before the match, yet we are expected to do well against a big team. It is frustrating.
“It would have been better if we regrouped on Monday.”
Flames coach Meck Mwase named 12 foreign-based players, including defender Charles Petro and midfielder Fransisco Madinga, who ply their trade in Europe.
The others are 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).
The team was initially scheduled to travel to South Africa on Monday, but the trip was delayed as FAM was waiting for extra funding from government, which has since committed K401 million for the remaining qualifiers.
Malawi are third in Group D with three points from two matches following their 2-0 loss to Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions and a 1-0 victory over Mozambique’s Mambas.
The Flames are tied with second-placed Cameroon on points, but the Indomitable Lions have a better goal difference.
Ivory Coast top the group with four points, a point above the Flames while Mozambique anchor the group with a point.