Malawi’s Flames today march onto Namboole Stadium against hosts Uganda’s Cranes in 2021 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) qualification with an obsession of consolidating their lead at the top of Group B.
Malawi top the group with three points from a narrow 1-0 victory against South Sudan on Wednesday and coach Meke Mwase knows victory in Kampala will put the Flames in control of their destiny in the battle for qualification.
However, it is going to be a tough one for the Flames as they come up against a tactically superior opponent.
Ranked 79 by Fifa, 45 places above the Flames, the Cranes just got back from Burkina Faso where they forced a draw to earn a vital away point.
Statistics also favour the Cranes in head-to-head comparison. The two sides have played 28 games and Malawi won eight, lost 14 while the other six ended in draws.
Malawi last beat Uganda in a competitive match in1988 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.
The last time the two sides played each other in a competitive match was in 2001, when Malawi lost back-to-back Afcon qualifiers and coach Meke Mwase then, captained the Flames.
However, Malawi managed a draw against Uganda last year in a friendly.
Though morale is high in the Flames camp, after Wednesday’s victory over South Sudan, Mwase has warned against overconfidence.
“This is a very different game all together, because we are playing away. We will be very cautious. But we also want to win. So, it will be a combination of how to defend and score goals to win the game as well,” said Mwase in an interview from Kampala, after Malawi’s first training session.
Uganda coach Johnathan McKinstry knows that although they are playing at home, Malawi is capable of turning the tables.
“We know we face a difficult challenge against Malawi, because starting with three points in qualifying as they did against South Sudan is the best possible start. Now they come here looking to build upon that. So, we know it will be a very tough encounter,” McKinstry told a pre-match press conference yesterday.
Flames captain John CJ Banda said they respect Uganda, but they will be no fear when the two sides clash.
“As a team, we are fully prepared. We know how good Uganda are, but we are not scared,” he said.
Mwase is expected to maintain the same team that played South Sudan.