Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden (RVG) has thrown his weight behind the Under-23 who face Zambia in a crucial Under-23 joint 2020 Olympics and Afcon qualifier this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
The Belgian tactician has left the Flames, who play Morocco in a dead rubber 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier this Friday, in the hands of his assistant Peter Mponda to concentrate on the Under-23 team’s qualification battle.
“As indicated earlier, the focus is to put all efforts together in the Under-23 team which has a big chance of progressing to the next round. This is the future of the Flames and their qualification is currently the biggest concern and priority in the Flames rebuilding agenda. We need to give them all the support they need on Wednesday [today]. The boys need it all,” RVG said yesterday.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said the FA supported RVG’s decision.
“It’s about setting our priorities right at this crucial moment when we are faced with competing needs. At this critical moment, the most crucial match is the Under-23 qualifier where we have a realistic chance of qualifying; hence, the need for RVG to prioritise the Under-23,” he said.
On his part, Under-23 coach Meke Mwase said his charges are ready for this afternoon’s showdown after spending two weeks in Belgium where the team camped.
He said their target is to beat the visitors with more goals before finishing the job in Lusaka on Sunday.
“Our preparations have been excellent. We camped in Belgium for two weeks where we had a couple of training matches. We also played Egypt on our way back. That has helped us prepare for this match,” he said.
On the junior Flames’ opponents, Mwase said they expect a tough game considering the rivalry between the two teams.
He said: “We know how they play and they also know how we play. We were in the same group in Cosafa Youth Championship last year where they beat us 2-0.
“I am sure it’s the same team with just some few additions just like we have done. So, we expect a tough game. But we are ready for them.”
Mwase’s side is a blend of up-and-coming players that have just graduated from the Under-20 national team and those that were recently promoted to the Flames.
The coach will bank on young blood such as Hadji Wali, Mark Fodya, Mike Mkwate, Chimwemwe Idana, Peter Banda, Hassan Kajoke and Francis Mkonda who spearheaded the second round qualification after beating Botswana 3-2 on aggregate.
Senior team players Brighton Munthali, Rabson Chiyenda, Isaac Kaliyati, Levison Maganizo, Dennis Chembezi and Patrick Phiri add experience to the team.
Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi has also assembled a strong team with foreign-based players such as Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu (Austria), Fashion Sakala (Belgium) and Emmanuel Banda (France) and Portugal-based Boston Muchindu.
The winner will face either Burundi or Congo Brazzaville in the final qualifying round.