The Flames jetted in last evening with coach Ernest Mtawali adamant that he is not under pressure despite the team facing an uphill task of upsetting the tables after losing 2-0 to Tanzania in the first leg of the 2018 World Cup preliminary.
Wearing a brave face, Mtawali took responsibility of the Flames loss in Tanzania, but said fatigue and injuries had a bearing on the team’s poor showing.
“As a coach, I take full responsibility of the loss,” he said on arrival at Chileka International Airport in Blantyre. “I know people are looking for results, but you cannot always win games.”
The coach refused to dwell on individual players’ performance.
“Let’s not point fingers at players. Simplex Nthala made a mistake. But it’s not only him, other players also made some mistakes, but we lost as a team,” he said.
“We have learned a lot. It goes to show that if you put 11 players on the field, all of them have to perform to their best, unfortunately, some of the players performed in patches.”
The coach said the Blantyre derby had a bearing on some players.
“In future, we have to prepare well. Like in Tanzania, most of their teams never played over the weekend because they knew that they were playing an important game against Malawi in World Cup,” he said.
“It’s not easy to play a game on a Saturday then you travel the same day to Lilongwe and fly out to Tanzanian on Sunday, play on Wednesday and be back on Thursday to play another game on Sunday. To some of these players, it means they would have played three games in six days.”
The coach, however, was confident that the team can score three goals in Sunday second leg and make it to the next stage to face Algeria in November.
“There is no need to panic at all. We missed the firepower of Chiukepo [Msowoya], He is now better and will be available on Sunday. We also need to recall some players like Yamikani Chester, Schumacher Kuwali, Wonder Germany, that we didn’t take to Tanzania,” he said.
On the opponent’s strengths, he said: “They have got three outstanding players, the two guys playing for TP Mazembe [Mbwana Aly Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu], they are good. But I think their defence is not that good. Whenever we went wide and curled in some crosses, their defenders were panicking. Hopefully, Chiukepo would have utilised such chances.”
Meanwhile, Football Association of Malawi (FAM) general secretary Suzgo Nyirenda has thrown full support of the technical panel. The Flames went straight into camp and will start preparing for Sunday’s match this morning. n