By Mphatso Malidadi & Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Malawi national football team, the Flames, have been placed in Pot 4 ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers draw set for Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt tonight.
Malawi are in Pot 4 alongside Angola, Togo, Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Liberia and Djibouti whereas Pot 1 has giants such as Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali and DR Congo.
Pot 2 is made up of Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa, Guinea, Uganda, Cape Verde, Gabon, Benin, Zambia and Congo while Pot 3 has Libya, Mozambique, Kenya, Central Africa, Zimbabwe, Niger, Namibia and Guinea Bissau.
It means Malawi cannot face opponents from the same pot but they should expect a team from each of the other pots.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) President, Walter Nyamilandu, said they were looking forward to the draw which has attracted 40 teams.
“Though teams have been seeded based on rankings, it won’t be a walk in the park because there is no small team anymore. It’s going to be tough because all the 40 teams are strong teams. We are excited and up for the challenge that will come our way after the draw,” he said.
The Flames eliminated Botswana 1-0 on aggregate to reach this stage.
“We take pride that Malawi will be competing with the best 40 teams in Africa for a slot to the World Cup 2022 Qatar. This could have been a lost opportunity if we had not beaten Botswana to qualify for the group stages,” Nyamilandu said.
Meanwhile, the Flames, will start non-residential training in preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Burkina Faso in March this year.
Both Football Association of Malawi General Secretary, Alfred Gunda, and Flames coach, Meck Mwase, confirmed that training for the locally based players would be conducted in all the three regions of the country.
Mwase and Bob Mpinganjira will be responsible for the Blantyre-based players, Lovemore Fazili and Chikondi Mandalasi will drill the players in the Central Region. Charles Kamanga will be responsible for the players in the Northern Region.
Mwase said he had drafted a plan for the Flames ahead of the crucial matches.
“We are taking advantage of the off-season break to drill the players. We are expected to start this month end so that we keep them fit ahead of the match in March,” Mwase said.
The former Flames defender said he had proposed strength-testing matches in readiness for the qualifiers.
“It is not easy to find teams to play friendly matches but we would have loved to play one match,” he added.
When contacted Gunda said the coach had submitted plans as part of preparations for the Afcon and World Cup qualifiers.
“Friendly matches depends on the availability of teams but it is not always easy. As Fam, we will try to provide good support to the team so that we do well in all the competitions,” Gunda said.
The Flames coach is expected to release names of the players for non-residential training next week.
In the Afcon qualifiers, the Flames are third in Group B with three points after beating South Sudan 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium. Malawi lost 2-0 to Uganda away at Namboole Stadium in Kampala. The Cranes lead the group with four points followed by Burkina Faso with the same number of points whereas S. Sudan anchor the group with no point.