Malawi national team’s resolve faces a stern test on Monday evening as the Flames take on Mauritius’ Les Dodos in Cosafa Cup Group B tie at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, South Africa.
Interestingly, the two teams have been in the same group for the past two editions of the regional competition.
In 2016 Malawi beat Mauritius 1-0 in the group stage however, last year the Flames only managed a goalless draw against Les Dodos.
But beaming with confidence, newly-appointed vice-captain John CJ Banda says the team is looking for nothing short of a victory as the Flames aim at breaking the jinx of getting booted out in group stages.
The Ferroviaro de Nampula midfielder said: “We are fully prepared. We know we have not given Malawians what they deserve. This is now the time to give them what they deserve. If our coaches believe in us to be here, we need to pay them back by being successful. Our target is to reach the final. Not the Plate final but the main competition’s final. This is time to harvest as the FAM president [Walter Nyamilandu] often says and we are ready.”
Coach Ronny Van Geneugden (RVG) was confident that his charges can this time pull a surprise.
“We cannot wait to play the game. I think the team is ready tactically, physically and also mentally. If you look at the atmosphere, the work load, you will see that everyone if looking forward to the tournament where we want to start with a good result against Mauritius because the first game of a tournament is always important.”
But despite the coach’s confidence and enthusiasm, Malawians remain skeptical because of his team’s coyness in front of goal.
The Flames failed to score a goal in the last edition of the competition.
The fact that Malawi has not lost in a year, is no consolation considering that the Flames have also not won but only had draws during that period.
RVG said he has been trying several strikers and attackers to solve the problem.
He seems to have found a solution in Portugal-based Richard Mbulu, Gastin Simkonda, Chiukepo Msowoya and Patrick Phiri who are expected to fight for the first team position in Monday’s encounter.
In the midfield, he has plenty of options. Lusaka Dynamos winger Dalitso Sailesi will likely start with Mozambique-based vice captain John Banda on the other flank.
Baroka FC’s Robin Ngalande may be thrown in the attacking midfielder role while either Rafick Namwela or Alfred Manyozo Jnr will get the holding midfielder role.
In goals, experienced Richard Chipuwa will likely get the nod ahead of Brighton Munthali.
Stand-in captain John Lanjesi, Precious Sambani, Stanley Sanudi and Dennis Chembezi will man the defence.
“I think we have the best attacking force. I saw in the training sessions in the past two weeks that they have hunger when in front of goal and that gives me confidence,” said RVG.
But the coach should be rest assured that Mauritius will not be a pushover.
Their Brazilian coach Francisco Filho is also almost in the same predicament as RVG and is looking for a change in fortune.