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Flames eye early quarter-final

Malawi national football team, the Flames, can seal an early 2015 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup berth if they beat Djibouti—the world’s bottom-ranked team—in a group C clash in Bahir Dar, northwest of Ethiopia.

All the Flames need is that a team which they beat 2-1 on Monday, Sudan should in another group C match Wednesday defeat their neighbours, South Sudan at Bahir Stadium.

On three points just like Malawi, South Sudan strolled to a 2-0 win over Djibouti on Monday to top the table on a superior goal-aggregate over Malawi.

The Flames, ranked 97th or 110 places ahead of Djibouti, were 2-1 winners over Sudan also on Monday.

If Sudan bounce back to upset their cousins, South Sudan, all the Flames need is any win to sail through to the quarter-finals with one academic clash against South Sudan remaining on Friday.

A place in the quarter-final will see the Flames flying back to Addis Ababa where the rest of the matches, including the semifinals and final, are scheduled.

On paper, there is a possibility of getting maximum points against Djibouti.

But, Malawi coach, Ernest Mtawali, has called for caution and tactical discipline when meeting Djibouti, who can run, but aimlessly, have pace, but it is not well-timed, they can attack, but they are toothless upfront.

“We have to start dictating the pace of the game. We want another three points, but against Djibouti it is not going to be easy. There is need for us to keep possession and be quick in closing them down,” said Mtawali, who is probably the best dressed coach here at the tournament.

In the last match between the two teams, Malawi won 3-0 in Djibouti five years ago with Chiukepo Msowoya, who scored in the 2-1 beating of Sudan on Monday, among the scorers.

A lot of fire-power will be expected from the Big Bullets centre-forward who will likely also partner Schumacher Kuwali.

Predictability does not exist in Mtawali’s vocabulary, so expect one or two changes—even more considering that defender Miracle Gabeya limped off on Monday and, Dalitso Sailesi struggled against physical opposition.

Sankhani Mkandawire proved to be more than an able replacement for Gabeya, and it will not be surprising if the Bullets man gets a nod.

The severity of Gabeya’s injury is yet to be established, but he appeared to have suffered from a muscle cramp.

In the other camp, Djibouti coach Noureddinene Gharsalli has cast doubts on his charges’ ability to hold their own against Malawi today.

After kicking and throwing water bottles on the technical bench in frustration at the sight of his charges’ losing 2-0 to South Sudan, Gharsalli looked resigned and tired already on Monday.

“Mine is a good team, but there is nobody to score. From the last game we played against Swaziland, we are missing seven players, who remained behind due to security reasons,” the Tunisian coach said.

“The absentees include first and second choice goalkeepers. For the Malawi game, I hope that, maybe, we can score. Malawi is a very good team. I watched them at 2011 Cecafa Cup in Tanzania,” said the Tunisian coach, before walking away hands at his back.

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