Ivory Coast coach Ibrahim Kamara has said the Elephants cannot afford to focus only on Cameroon but also the Flames and Mozambique who could pull a surprise.
The Elephants gaffer said this in an interview with www.aclsports.com in reaction to the draw for the second round Africa qualifiers for Qatar 2022 held on Tuesday in Egypt, which saw the Elephants in Group D alongside the Indomitable Lions, Mozambique’s Mambas and the Flames.
“I have been hearing and reading from local journalists highlighting the fear of meeting Cameroon once again. Well, it’s a draw and there is nothing you can do. You have to stand and fight.
“Don’t be surprised that teams like Mozambique and Malawi could pull off a shock. It’s football. We must not focus only on Cameroon but the entire group,” he was quoted as having said.
The 2022 World Cup qualification gets underway in October and the Flames are expected to face Cameroon in their first match.
In an interview soon after the draw, Flames coach Meck Mwase said the two continental giants are odds-on favourites, but Malawi should not be counted out.
“It’s a challenge for us…. We need to rise up to it. We have a big task, that is for sure. Cameroon and Ivory Coast are considered among the giants on the continent.
“But we shouldn’t underrate ourselves, this is football. We just have to plan properly and have thorough preparations,” he said.
Three Flames senior players—Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, Limbikani ‘Pupa’ Mzava and John ‘CJ’ Banda—said preparations will be crucial in determining their destiny.
Said Mhango from his Johannesburg base in South Africa: “This is not an experimental tournament like the others. We need mature players that can rise to the occasion.
“Honestly, the gap between us and the likes of Cameroon and Ivory Coast is huge. However, names alone should not strike fear in our hearts. We need to have self-belief.
“How we prepare and approach the qualifiers will also be critical. In such tournaments, the secret is to turn your home ground into a fortress.”
On his part, Mzava said: “My personal view is that it is not an easy group, but we can do well if we prepare well and have that self-belief. In football anything can happen, it will boil down to the level of our preparedness both physically and mentally.”
Banda said: “On paper, our group is tough , but we have to fight on the pitch because that is where the game is played… We just need good preparations and everything will fall into place.”
Meanwhile, Cameroon has set World Cup qualification as one of the targets for their new head coach Antonio Conceicao da Silva Oliveira, fondly called Toni Conceicao.
During the Portuguese-born coach’s unveiling, Cameroon’s Minister of Sports and Physical Education Narcisse Mouelle Kombi said: “Cameroon is also counting on the new coach to qualify the country for the 2022 World Cup.”
The Elephants are currently undergoing reconstruction and might not be as dreadful as in previous qualifiers.
After their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations success, Cameroon have also suffered a dip in form.
The Flames and Mozambique have never qualified for the global showpiece while Cameroon have been to the World Cup seven times, more than any African team. However, they have only made it once past the group stage.
They were the first African team to reach the quarter-final in 1990, losing to England in the extra time.
Ivory Coast’s best run was between 2006 and 2014 when they qualified for three consecutive World Cups.
The last time the Flames faced Ivory Coast was in 2009 in a 2010 World Cup qualifier which ended one-all at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Malawi’s last meeting against Cameroon ended in a goalless draw at the same venue in 2018 during a 2019 Afcon qualifier.