Afcon race still open
Malawi’s Flames— donning an improvised white and green uniform— last night emerged from Conakry’s September 28 Stadium with a hard-earned barren draw against hosts, Guinea, leaving Group L wide open.
In this 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, the Flames had to make do without their distinct, black, red and green strips after reportedly their luggage failed to trace its way to Guinea.
However, the experienced Flames put aside the off-the-field setback after coach Ernest Mtawali went for a pragmatic and cautious 4-5-1 system, with Chiukepo Msowoya as the lone hunter upfront.
A win could have been the most desirable result considering that the Flames have, in three games, dropped six points while collecting just two points with three games to go.
Going into next week’s second legs, Malawi remain third on two points, at par with bottom-placed Guinea.
In the larger context, the group’s table-topping Swaziland’s 1-1 home draw with second-placed Zimbabwe’s Warriors also yesterday, offers Flames qualification solace when welcoming Guinea on Tuesday at Kamuzu Stadium. Swaziland have five points, at par with Zimbabwe.
Malawi, ranked 104 compared to 63 for Guinea, now must win at all cost their remaining two home matches, including September’s game against Swaziland, while hoping for a successful outing to Zimbabwe this June.
Only overall top team in each of the 13 groups, plus second best runners up and hosts, Gabon will qualify for the 2017 Afcon finals—a tall order considering that Malawi has been at the final only in 1984 and 2010.
From last night’s starting line-up, only Robert Ng’ambi, Joseph Kamwendo and Msowoya were survivors from the squad that defeated Guinea 2-1 in the two teams’ last meeting in 2009 at Kamuzu Stadium.
Flames starting XI: Brighton Munthali, Harry Nyirenda, Limbikani Mzava, Stanley Sanudi, Francis Mlimbika, Joseph Kamwendo, John Banda, Chimango Kayira, Micium Mhone, Robert Ng’ambi, Msowoya.
Tuesday: Malawi v Guinea
Monday: Zimbabwe v Swaziland
June 3-5: Zimbabwe v Malawi
September 2-4: Malawi v Swaziland
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