Malawi Under-23 national football team coach Meke Mwase says the Junior Flames need to exercise caution this afternoon when they host Botswana’s Dream Team in the preliminary round second leg encounter of the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Junior Flames have a spring in their step having won the first leg tie 1-2 away in Lobatse Town on Saturday.
But in an interview yesterday, Mwase said his charges are not in the comfort zone yet and will have to fight from the start to finish today.
“We cannot afford the luxury of thinking that we are there because there have been occasions when our junior national teams have done well away only to falter at home.
“Football is unpredictable in which the mood can swing when you least expected. So, we will need to exercise a lot of caution,” he said.
The coach said the plan will be to score an early goal so as to unsettle the visitors.
The Junior Flames returned home in the early hours of yesterday (at about 1am) through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe and drove straight to Blantyre to prepare for today’s showdown.
Asked on the recovery strategy to avoid fatigue, Mwase said: “We will be resting for the better part of the day [yesterday] and we will only loosen up at the stadium at 4.30pm.
“We believe that is enough time to rest and then switch focus to tomorrow’s [today’s] game.”
He was also uncertain on how they will accommodate some of the seven players who travelled with the Flames to Comoros who were expected to arrive yesterday afternoon.
The seven are goalkeeper Brightone Munthali, defenders Dennis Chembezi, Precious Sambani, midfielders Felix Zulu and Levison Maganizo and striker Patrick Phiri.
“We will have to sit down as a technical panel to see how we can include them without affecting the rhythm,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Dream Team also jetted in yesterday afternoon and their coach Letang ‘Rasta’ Kgengwenyane expressed confidence of upsetting the tables.
“The scales are tipped in Malawi’s favour since they are leading and they will also have home ground advantage.
“But the battle isn’t over yet. We will fight to the end and see what happens,” he said.
Kgengwenyane was also quoted by Botswana’s daily newspaper, Mmegi, as having said they are aiming for a maiden Afcon berth, which will put the side in contention for the 2020 Olympics qualification.
“The preparations have been going well thus far. We will only accept failure when we reach the Afcon finals; that is the minimum point we should reach. We should reach the Olympics for the first time, that is how ready we are.”
Botswana’s key players include midfielders Kago Monyake and Mothusi Cooper and striker Tshepo Malgas who play in their Premier League.
The Junior Flames displayed characteric grit to come from behind and snatch a 2-1 victory in Botswana after Mothusi Johnson had put the hosts in the lead. Hassan Kajoke levelled the score before Gregory Nachipo struck the winner. n