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Flames line up injury-hit squad against eSwatini in must-win match

By Williams Gondwa:

After a fruitless campaign in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, Malawi national football team has a chance to restore its battered reputation against eSwatini in the second leg of the 2020 African Nations Championship at Kamuzu Stadium this afternoon.

Having played out a goalless draw in the first leg at Mavuso Sports Centre in Manzini last month, the tie is wide open for both teams.

The Flames need a win at all cost if they are to progress in the continental competition.

But any scoring draw would be enough for eSwatini to boot out Malawi and advance.

Despite suffering some injury setbacks ahead of the game, Flames Coach Meke Mwase says utilising home ground advantage will be key to qualifying for the next round.

Malawi’s injury woes worsened after midfielder Chikoti Chirwa was also ruled out after suffering a knee injury during training.

But Mwase said he has replaced Chirwa with Nyasa Big Bullets veteran midfielder, Chimango Kayira.

The TN Stars Coach said he has also called up Blue Eagles midfielder Gregory Nachipo to beef up the squad.

He said the duo will add value to the Flames having played for the national team before.

“It is always disappointing to lose key players such as Peter Cholopi, Alfred Manyozo, Chikoti Chirwa and Patrick Phiri who were on the starting line up during our first game.

“But all in all, we have to rely on players who are available. As for Chimango and Nachipo, these are players who know what to expect from an international match,” Mwase said.

He said the Flames’ game plan will prioritise attacking and getting a goal within the first twenty minutes.

In the absence of the injured legion, Mwase has several options in Micium Mhone, Chimwemwe Idana, Mike Mkwate and Kaira in midfield.

Khuda Muyaba, Chiukepo Msowoya and Schumaker Kuwali could be featured upfront to bang in the much needed goals.

Flames captain, John Lanjesi, said the players are ready to bring smiles on Malawians’ faces.

“We are just asking them to come in large numbers. I know we have not been performing well during our past games but as players, we have sat down and discussed how we can win against eSwatini,” Lanjesi said.

Meanwhile, eSwatini arrived yesterday evening with Coach Kosta Papic, who also coached South Africa Premier Soccer League giants Orlando Pirates, admitting that the Flames were tough during the first leg draw.

The Serbian, having taken over the side last year, is however confident that his players can upset Malawi.

The winner between Malawi and eSwatini will meet Angola in the second round in July.

In 2017, the Flames were booted out of the competition in the first round when they lost to Madagascar 2-0 on goal aggregate.

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