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Flames ‘aim for the Stars’

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Malawi national football team, the Flames face a mammoth test Wednesday when they play Tanzania’s Taifa Stars in a Fifa World Cup preliminary round qualifier amid scorching heat at 60,000-seater National Stadium.

It would be a tough test for the Flames, who would be looking to claim a win in Dar es Salaam before a second-leg tie at home, Kamuzu Stadium, this Sunday. The Flames are yet to win a match against Taifa Stars in last five games played in Tanzania.

The two teams are separated by 35 steps on the latest Fifa Coca-Cola world ranking with Flames on 101, whereas Taifa Stars are on 136. However, in football, rankings can sometimes not matter.

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Taifa Stars, who recently impressively held Nigeria to a goal-less draw at the same venue, are no pushovers, especially at home.

This could be a serious warning for the Flames and they need to exercise caution when facing TP Mazembe duo Mbwana Samatta and Thomas Ulimwengu, who are Taifa Stars top strikers.

With Robert Ng’ambi out due to injury, Flames coach Ernest Mtawali has almost the same squad-minus, Chiukepo Msowoya and Richard Chipuwa that was held by Swaziland in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier recently.

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Seasoned goalkeeper, Simplex Nthala, is expected to be between the sticks after Chipuwa was dropped.

Mtawali would be hoping to chalk his first competitive win in charge of the Flames after fluffing a good opportunity against Swaziland last month.

Despite hot weather conditions in Tanzania, Mtawali was upbeat ahead of today’s clash.

“We have adapted well to the hot conditions here in Tanzania and the players are ready to die for the nation. We anticipate a tough encounter, but we need to defend well throughout the match because we have been conceding silly goals towards the end of the game,” Mtawali said.

However, Mtawali said the absence of Ng’ambi is a blow but the team will cope.

In a separate interview, Football Association of Malawi (Fam) executive member, Paul Mzungu, who is also leader of delegation, was confident that Flames would come out victors.

“It is too hot but it normally cools down during the afternoon which is the time for the game but the team is ready,” Mzungu said.

Midfield workhorse Micium Mhone, Gerald Phiri Jnr, John Banda, captain Limbikani Mzava and ever improving Yamikani Fodya are potential match winners for the Flames.

Tanzania coach Charles Mkwasa would relying on Samatta, Ulimwengu and Free State Stars attacker, Mrisho Ngassa.

The winner of the two-legged tie meet Africa’s football powerhouse, Algeria in the next round of the continental qualifiers.

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