By Mabvuto Kambuwe:
Malawi national football team flew out of the country Wednesday for the 2022 Qatar World Cup preliminary round, first leg qualifying match against Botswana’s Zebra’s at Francistown Sports Complex on Saturday.
Malawi, who host Botswana in the second leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Tuesday, jetted out through Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe to Johannesburg Wednesday before proceeding to Francistown the same day.
The encounter is Meke Mwase’s first test since being appointed Flames coach on a year-deal replacing Belgian Ronny van Geneugden.
Having included six foreignland-based players namely Gerald Phiri Junior, Gabadihno Mhango, Yamikani Chester, John Banda, Richard Mbulu and Robin Ngalande, there is renewed hope that the Flames can grind out a positive outcome.
Mwase, in an interview on Tuesday, said he had confidence in his charges.
“We have a group of players who are determined to do the job and are confident that we will make it to the next round. This is our target and we have to unite so that we achieve it,” Mwase said.
During this year’s Cosafa Cup in South Africa, Mwase guided the Flames to Cosafa Plate final which they lost 5-4 on post-match penalties.
In the main event, Malawi beat Sychelles 3-0 and Namibia 2-1 but drew 1-1 with Mozambique before losing 4-2 to Zambia on post-match penalties after blowing a two-goal lead due to individual errors.
The Flames should expect tough opposition as Botswana’s Zebras have named a strong squad for the two-legged qualifier.
According to a squad which Botswana Football Association (BFA) released, newly appointed coach Adel Amrounce has named a 23-member squad including veteran Joel Mogorosi, Tsotso Ngele, Tumisang Orebonye and Mpho Kgaswane, Mosha Gaolaolwe, Lesenya Ramolaka, Kabelo Dambe, Ezikiel Morake and Thero Setsile.
The Zebras, ranked 42nd in Africa and 147 in the world, met Malawi during the 2018 Cosafa Cup in South Africa and settled for a 1-1 draw.
Some 28 least ranked teams, according to July 2019 rankings, were paired against each other, leaving 26 top ranked teams seeded from the preliminary round.
The 14 winners from the preliminary round will join the 26 seeded teams in the group stages.