Flames challenge Tanzania
Malawi National Football Team should, this afternoon only, forget the simmering Lake Malawi dispute with its neighbour, Tanzania, and challenge the Taifa Stars in a warm-up match pencilled for Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
It is unclear if the match, whose significance lies in that it has a bearing on rankings and also helps fine-tune the Flames for tougher challenges, would attract the attendance of John ‘The Bulldozer’ Magufuli.
But even in the absence of the Tanzanian leader, who is at the centre of the lake dispute with his Malawian counterpart Peter Mutharika, there is enough motivation for the Flames to fight for nothing short of a win.
This match presents the Flames Coach, Ronny van Geneugden, a perfect platform to experiment his endless rebuilding exercise while at the same time, seek revenge over the Taifa Stars.
Malawi, who last beat Tanzania 1-0 in 2015 through Gerald Phiri’s goal in a Fifa World Cup preliminary round qualifier at Kamuzu Stadium, lost 2-0 to the Taifa Stars at the Cosafa Castle Cup in June this year.
The Taifa Stars have had an upper hand over the Flames, especially when playing at home in humid conditions.
Overall, the neighbours have met 46 times, with Malawi winning 10 games compared to 21 for Tanzania with the 15 other games ending in draws.
Van Geneugden would seek to build on the recent 1-0 win over Togo in Morocco and improve his unconvincing record of two wins, four draws and three losses since taking charge of the team in April.
In the nine games of all competitions, the Flames have looked relatively better defensively after leaking in five goals, but upfront, the team lacks a fluent scorer.
The Flames have, under van Geneugden, scored thrice through Phiri and Richard Mbulu with the other being an own-goal.
The impotence could be attributed to main striker Gabadinho Mhango’s goal-drought at his club, Bidvest Wits, in South Africa.
Mozambique-based Mbulu is yet to establish himself in the team whereas Jabulani Linje is more of a creator than scorer.
Van Geneugden might be forced to bank on Mbulu and Mhango’s combination upfront with Phiri being given the licence to roam behind the strikers, hoping to pounce on set-piece opportunities.
Robert Ng’ambi should start in midfield alongside Chikoti Chirwa with John Banda completing the three-man midfield placed in front of the defence comprising Denis Chembezi, Stanley Sanudi, Yamikani Fodya and John Lanjesi. Charles Swini should man the posts.
Options for Malawi lie in Righteous Banda of Civil Sporting Club and Levison Maganizo from Silver Strikers. But there is no doubt that the Flames would miss the creativity, penetration and trickery of Zambia-based Dalitso Sailesi.
The Belgian coach is fortunate that in seven months, he has had the luxury of playing four warm-up matches and by now, he should come up with a regular starting XI capable of executing his ball-possession based 4-3-3 formation.
Malawi’s defence should keep an eagle’s eye on Tanzania’s speedy hunter Shiza Kichuya, who scored a brace at the Cosafa Cup, and Belgium-based KRC Genk striker Mbwana Samatta.
Towering defender Abdi Banda from South Africa’s Baroka FC can also prove deadly for Tanzania, who are ranked 125, in set-play. Malawi is ranked 116.
The Taifa Stars’ Coach, Salum Mayanga, has, at his disposal, better playing personnel, including the likes of Morocco’s Difaa Hassan El- Jadidah striker, Simon Msuva and Morel Orgenes from Portugal’s FC Famalicao.
So while Malawi and Tanzania will never agree on the ownership of the lake, when it comes to football, at least 90 minutes can separate the two teams.
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