The story of being so near, yet so far has been haunting Malawi National Football Team, the Flames, for so long. Will it be the same song this afternoon at Bingu National Stadium?
The Flames just need one goal to change the complexion of the second leg when hosting Madagascar in the African Nations Championship (Chan) first round qualifier in Lilongwe.
The visitors head into the reverse fixture with their tails up having beaten Malawi 1-0 in the first leg.
Saturday afternoon’s match is undoubtedly a grudge fixture as the Flames seek revenge.
There is still hope for the Flames if they execute their game-plan well in front of the home crowd.
In eight previous meetings between the two teams, Madagascar have won four times, losing thrice and drawn once.
Despite trailing 0-1, the Flames Head Coach, Ronny Van Geneugden, has refused to throw in the towel, saying the battle is not yet over.
The Belgian told journalists after Wednesday’s training session in Lilongwe that the Flames would play attacking football.
“We are down but not yet out. It will be important to balance attacking and defence. Madagascar won due to luck but this is our chance to prove that we are also good,” Geneugden said.
Probably, the Flames’ first leg loss was a wake-up call for the Belgian.
After the defeat, he reacted by bolstering the squad with strikers Ishmael Thindwa, Binwell Katinji, attackers Robin Ngalande and Joseph Kamwendo.
However, Geneugden claimed during the week that he deliberately kept some of his arsenals for the reverse fixture.
“The impact of the new players was positive. It was our plan to change some of the positions and bring in new players because in the home game, we have to play offensive football,” he insisted.
Perhaps, Geneugden had done his home work on the opponents who are ranked on position 120, 20 places behind the Flames.
Upon arrival in Lilongwe, Madagascar’s Barea Coach, Raux Augusta, fired warning shots that his charges were eyeing nothing short of victory.
“We know they [the Flames] have added some players but we are not worried with them. We have a one-goal advantage and we will protect it. Our mission is to qualify for the next round,” Augusta said through an interpreter.
The visitors have an advantage courtesy of Ardino Reveloarisona’s 87th minute strike in Antananarivo.
Geneugden will likely ring the changes to the squad that played a 4-5-1 system in the first leg, which rendered Muhammad Sulumba ineffective upfront.
Lucky Malata, Stanley Sanudi, John Lanjesi and Francis Mlimbika are likely to be maintained in defence whereas Davie Banda, Chimango
Kayira and Joseph Kamwendo will be at the hub of the midfield.
Upfront, Geneugden will have a selection headache with Katinji, Thindwa, Manase Chiyesa, Harvey Nkacha and Sulumba available for selection.
The Flames need two goals without conceding to qualify for the second round and date Mozambique.
The overall winner will qualify for the third and final qualifying round to meet either Seychelles or Mauritius.
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