Flames coach Ernest Mtawali on Thursday named a daring squad for 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Zimbabwe this Sunday and the Cosafa Cup in Namibia.
The 20-player squad has eight players from Nyasa Big Bullets, four from Be Forward Wanderers, while Silver Strikers have contributed one and the rest are foreign based.
The coach has made a brave change dropping first and second choice goalkeepers Brighton Munthali from Silver Strikers and TNM Super League leaders Blue Eagles’ John Soko.
He has opted for up-and-coming Bullets goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe and experienced Mozambique-based Charles Swini who has been sidelined from Flames over a year.
The development means the Flames have completely changed the goalkeeping department after the dropped duo was used in the past matches under Mtawali.
In defence, he has picked Black Leopards’ Harry Nyirenda, Be Forward Wanderers duo of Stanley Sanudi and Francis Mulimbika, Bullets’ Yamikani Fodya, Pilirani Zonda, John Lanjesi and Miracle Gabeya.
In midfield, foreign based Joseph Kamwendo, Micium Mhone, John Banda and Gerald Phiri Jnr and locals Silvers’ Wonderful Jereman, Bullets’ Dalitso Sailesi, Wanderers’ rising star Rafick Namwera, have made the trip.
The squad has strikers Chiukepo Msowoya, Muhammad Sulumba, Peter Wadabwa and Gabadinho Mhango.
The Flames fly to Harare this morning after two weeks preparations during which they played two strength testing matches against local sides.
They beat Azam Tigers 1-0 a week ago and were held to a goalless draw by Mafco on Wednesday.
Mtawali described the result against Mafco as normal.
“We were trying different combinations ahead of the game against Zimbabwe. This was a strength testing match and, from it, we cannot draw conclusions on the outcome of the Afcon qualifier this Sunday,” he said.
On the squad, Mtawali was confident that the players selected were capable of delivering both in Zimbabwe and Namibia on June 8.
Flames need to beat Zimbabwe if they are to revive hopes of qualifying for the Afcon finals.
They have two points from four games while the Warriors lead group L with eight points from the same number of matches.
Analyst Enos Chatama observed that the Flames have a mammoth task to upset tables.
He said: “Our national team has not been stable for a while as the team has been changing every now and then. We just need to be positive and plan positively for such a crucial game.
“He (Mtawali) should tighten the game in the first 15 minutes, don’t let Zimbabwe score first as they are at home and will be breathing fire to get an early goal. Study them but play with caution as well. He should also avoid silly mistakes at the back.” n