On the weekend of July 18 2014, the Flames return to the jungle of international football away in Benin for a second round, first leg of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
The reverse fixture will be played at the end of July in Blantyre with the overall winner, over the two legs, destined to complete the last slot in Group A comprising Mali, Ethiopia and Algeria.
Yes, Mali, Ethiopia and Algeria, who were a game away from springing an upset at the 2014 World Cup, stand in the Flames’ way for a place in Morocco next year.
To make the Morocco party from the group stage, Malawi has to play six games and hope to occupy the top two final slots or be lucky enough to be among third best loser across all groups.
Such fixtures demand that Flames must have depth of the playing squad and the purse, but that is, unfortunately, not the case.
The defence lacks shape and leadership, even James Sangala’s return to club football might take time before he can translate at the national team level.
The entire left wing is dysfunctional, Fischer Kondowe has never been replaced on the right flank and Hellings Mwakasungula’s big boots are yet to be filled in the holding midfield role.
Upfront, the team lacks a target-man as Gabadinho Mhango and Robin Ngalande are more of second strikers, whereas Atusaye Nyondo is yet to grow into a powerful person to bully defenders.
Nyondo’s strength is finishing than harassing defenders, yet he hardly scores regularly. In short, this team is mere work in progress, hence the sooner FAM admits that qualifying for Afcon is a tall order, the better.
To be realistic and live within the Flames’ means, participation in Afcon qualifiers must simply be a matter of tuning up for 2014 Cosafa Castle Cup. With Malawi football resources and squad available, aiming for Cosafa gold seems more realistic than creating false hopes. Just my humble opinion.