The Flames will kick off their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign with back-to-back ties at home against Ethiopia’s Walias and away to Guinea’s Syli Nationale.
The qualifiers will be played on match days one and two which fall between May 30 and June 14, according to a communique from CAF.
The qualifiers will then break for a month during which the Flames will participate in the 2023 Africa Nations Championship (Chan) and the Cosafa Cup between July and August.
The Flames will face the other Group D team Egypt, back-to-back, away on match day three before hosting the Pharaohs at home on match day four which falls between September 19 and 27.
Match day five and six which fall between March 20 and 28 2023, will see the Flames completing the qualifiers with a trip to Addis Ababa to face Ethiopia before winding up the campaign against Guinea at home.
Flames coach Mario Marinica said he anticipates a tough qualification race, with all the four teams capable of making it.
He said: “Shame that all four teams were at [delayed] 2021 Afcon finals, but two will miss out. When you mention Egypt and Guinea in football terms, you think of Mo Salah and Naby Keita straight away and that speaks a lot. That makes the task extremely difficult for any coach and the teams that have to face them.
“However, like in Cameroon, our chances are to believe in ourselves and work very hard. Not much things have changed since Afcon. Our 28-player squad is still worth only 4.5 million euros, compared with our opponents that are hundreds of millions euros.
“Like during Afcon, Gaba [Frank Gabadinho Mhango] is still not a regular player at his team [Orlando Pirates, but yet with hard work and grit determination, we have performed well and produced results.”
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said with determination the Flames can make history by qualifying for Afcon finals back-to-back.
He said: “It’s a tough group because all teams qualified for Afcon finals in Cameroon, but we have no fear. We just have to play our cards right and be determined to repeat history.
“Having seen the worst and surpassed our expectations at Afcon finals, we should draw much encouragement that we can overturn the tables again. Let’s brace for a tough battle ahead.”
Soccer analyst Patrick Zgambo also held the same view that Flames can make it back-to-back to the Afcon finals.
He, however, said the trick is for Malawi to ensure that they collect maximum points at home.
He said: “The group is not all that bad, but there are no easy games. We have to win our home matches. That is non-negotiable.”
Malawi qualified for the 2021 Afcon played in January 2022 after finishing as runners up in their group behind leaders Burkina Faso and above Uganda who were third followed by South Sudan.