At the once fortress Kamuzu stadium a year ago, Malawi national football team’s dream of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) suffered its first terrible blow from Zimbabwe and now the Flames’ fate all but lies in the den of the same opponent.
After that unforgettable 2-1 defeat experienced coach Young Chimodzi was sacked and there came the fresh brain of Ernest Mtawali—once the most reveled midfield king in his playing days. If Malawians sniffed a miraculous recovery after the technical panel reshuffle, that recovery has never arrived.
Currently, Flames sit at the bottom of Group L with two points from four matches and two games remain in the bag while Zimbabwe leads the pack with eight points.
The National Sports Stadium in Harare is where Malawi will this afternoon need a miracle when they face hosts, who rather than the other group members Guinea and Swaziland, seem more determined to seal the trip to Gabon.
The Warriors have not lost in this campaign while Malawi has lost twice, drawn twice. That record of invisibility tells a tale of how organised the Kalisto Patsuwa coached Zimbabwe has been in the race.
But if the whole Malawi has lost its hope on a day when a draw will not be enough to save the Afcon project, only one man, Mtawali has the faith equal to that of biblical Moses.
Speaking before departure for Harare on Friday, the coach sounded richly optimistic he could twist the hand of curse and lead the nation to the Promised Land.
Unveiling his strategy he said: “We will attack and attack and attack. We want to shock them. If we get a win and beat Swaziland at home then we still stand a chance of making it.”
Mtawali’s squad of 20 has a combination of both experience and youthfulness.
Zimbabwe’s first 11 will be built around captain Willard Katsande, sensational Mamelodi Sundowns striker Khama Biliat and Orlando Pirates forward Tendai Ndoro who last season netted five goals in 10 starts at his club.
In another Group L match, second-placed Swaziland host Guinea which occupies third position. Both sides have five points but the Swazis have a better goal difference.
Flames Probable line up:
Charles Swini, Stanley Sanudi, Francis Mlimbika, Harry Nyirenda, John Lanjesi, Jospeh Kamwendo, Wonder Jeremani, Gerald Phiri Jnr, Peter Wadabwa, John Banda, Chiukepo Mosowoya, Gabadinho Mhango. n