The Flames are hoping to give the world of football a Cinderella tale of an underdog defying the odds to floor a giant when they face Senegal’s Lions of Teranga this evening in a decisive Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group B showdown in Baofussam, Cameroon.
The match kicks off at 6pm local time and by 8pm, Malawians should know the fate of their team.
All the waiting is about to come to an end as the Flames take to Kouekong Stadium against the continent’s top-ranked side, aiming to charm the football world with a feel-good story of the biblical little David bringing down the giant Goliath.
Never has the local football fraternity been gripped by such a wave of football fever in recent years and Malawians will be glued to their television screens, following the events as unfold in the West African country, hoping for an upset that will cheer their spirits.
Although a draw could be an option in a quest to realise their dreams, considering the standings in other groups, the Flames do not have such luxury and need a straight win to have be in the comfort zone.
Malawi are third with three points, a point behind leaders Senegal and second-placed Guinea’s SyliNationale, who face table anchors Zimbabwe’s Warriors in the group’s other match.
The Senegalese are ranked 20th on Fifa World Rankigs, 105 places above the Flames.
But such is the beauty of football that it does not always go according to script and the Flames have vowed to punch above their weight for the cause of the nation.
Striker Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango, who leads the scorers chart in Group B with two goals, on Monday said they are prepared to sweat blood.
He said: “Senegal are favourites. We are the underdogs, but we are going to fight all the way.Ndiyamagazi game iyi.
“We know that it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll fight. We have been written off as mere participants, but we can surprise them.”
The South Africa-based 29-year-old forward also said mental and psychological strength will be crucial.
Flames interim coach Marian Mario Marinica, who got a timely clearance to be in the dugout after re-testing negative for Covid-19, said in an interview on Monday that this evening’s contest provides his charges an opportunity to make history.
“Thus, we are mentally, tactically and physically prepared.
“With hardwork, belief and grit determination, we can achieve a positive result tomorrow [today] that will see us through to the last 16 and I am very much looking forward to being part of that.”
The Romanian, however, played it safe and could not be drawn into discussing tactics for the encounter.
Senegal are yet make an impact at the continental showpiece, having scored just one goal in open play through their talisman Sadio Mane against Zimbabwe.
However, to their credit, they are yet to concede.
Unbeaten in eight games across all competitions, Senegal could also welcome back their first-choice goalkeeper Eduardo Mendy, who has recovered from Covid-19 and is available for selection.
Just like the Flames, Senegal have never won the Afcon, but have qualified 17 times while Malawi are making their third appearance.