This is it—the moment of truth for the Flames is finally here as they face Guinea’s Syli Nationale in a tautly compelling contest which is most likely to determine their fate in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification campaign.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm and the setting is the ceremonial home of local football—Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre—and by 5pm, the Flames will know their fate.
The Flames face a win-or-bust challenge in their quest to keep their qualification hopes on the boil.
It has been a rocky ride for the Flames in the past six years—full of upsets and bouts of despair—but coach Ernest ‘Wire’ Mtawali and his troops have vowed to go for the ‘National Elephants’ throats and come out of the battle field bruised, but triumphant.
With two points from three games and without a win so far in this campaign just like their West African opponents, the Flames also realise that it is a contest that offers them an opportunity to restore the faith of the fans.
Zimbabwe’s 4-0 routing of Swaziland made things tough for Malawi.
Mtawali and seasoned midfielder Joseph Kamwendo yesterday said they are banking on home ground advantage and the 12th player to chalk a win they desperately need.
“We have nothing to lose and we will have to fight for every yard for the full 90 minutes. There are no two ways, we must win this match.
“Another advantage is that the fans are always great when we are playing at home and they make a huge difference in such tough moments and I am urging them to come and rally behind their team,” said Mtawali.
The Flames legend also appreciates that today’s encounter could determine his fate and that of his assistant Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan.
“But I am not bothered by that. What keeps ringing in my mind is that we have a mission to accomplish,” he said.
While keeping a tight lid on the formation, it is most likely that Mtawali will opt for a 3-5-2 set up in which captain Limbikani Mzava, Harry Nyirenda and Stanley Sanudi are tipped to form the rearguard and provide shield for rookie goalkeeper Brightone Munthali.
John ‘CJ’ Banda and Micium Mhone will lead play from the wings with Chimango Kayira featuring as a defending midfielder.
Kamwendo will likely play a holding role in midfield aided by the combative promptings of fellow experienced midfielder Robert Ng’ambi, who will be thrown just behind strikers Chiukepo Msowoya and Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango.
“It is going to be tough, very tough, but what I can assure the nation is that we are ready to die with our boots on for the sake of our motherland because if we do not get a result tomorrow [today] then it will be scary.
“The morale in camp is very high and everyone is prepared to give out his best shot. I just appeal to the fans to come and cheer us on,” said Kamwendo.
The Guineans were expected to arrive yesterday after a brief camp in Paris, France where they trained for a day yesterday before connecting to Ethiopia en route to Malawi.
Their coach Luis Fernandez said his charges failed to rise to the occasion at home because they were filled with tension having played away from home for two years.
“I think they were over excited and it affected their performance, but I am hoping for an improved performance in the return leg,” the former Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and French international was quoted as having said by www.guineanews.com.
He will bank his hopes on France-based Lass Bangoura who was outstanding in last Friday’s encounter which ended goalless.
Zimbabwe now top Group L with eight points after beating Swaziland 4-0 yesterday. Knowledge Musona, Costa Nhamoinesu, Tafadzwa Rusike and Khama Billiat were on target.