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Flames search for first Afcon away win in 13 years

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FULL HOUSE—Football Association of Malawi (Fam) President
Walter Nyamilandu (second left) joins, Mhango (left), Mbulu (centre), Phiri Jr (right) and Mzava

Malawi National Football Team must be brave to get a positive result when facing South Sudan in Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at Al Hilal Stadium Omdurman, Sudan, this afternoon.

Just few days after enduring the agony of a 4-0 humiliating defeat to Ethiopia in a friendly, the Flames must quickly forget that experience and fight for the nation.

With group B still open, destiny is in Flames’ hands, who last qualified for Afcon finals in 2010 in Angola.

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The Flames and Sudan have met twice in all competitions with the Bright Stars beating Malawi 2-0 at Cecafa but the Flames won 1-0 in the Afcon qualifiers last year.

On paper, the Flames, ranked 123 in the world, have a slight advantage over Sudan (ranked 163) but Malawi have proved to be bad travelers.

It has been 13 years since Malawi last won a match in the Afcon qualifiers. It was a 3-0 victory lowly ranked Djibouti in 2008.

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However, Malawi defeated Namibia 1-0 in World Cup qualifiers in 2013.

To make matters worse, Sudan are no longer push-overs in the qualifiers, having beaten Uganda 1-0 in Kenya last year.

Buoyed by the availability of foreign land-based stars, it is obvious that Flames coach Meck Mwase will make changes.

Mwase admitted that his troops must be at their best to win it.

“It is a game we need the most and we have to fight hard to win it. We have to be cautious with opponents but need to have strong minded players. It is a very big opportunity for the players to prove their worth,” he said.

Captain Limbikani Mzava will be trusted with the responsibility of defending alongside Charles Petro, Stanley Sanudi and Precious Sambani while providing cover to either Ernest Kakhobwe or Brighton Munthali.

In midfield, Mwase has plenty of options, namely John Banda, Chimwemwe Idana, Gerald Phiri Junior, Georgia-based Francisco Madinga Junior, Peter Banda from Moldova and Micium Mhone.

In today’s match, the Flames need more precision and composure upfront to stay in conntention.

Orlando Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango, who scored the winner in first leg, is expected to lead attack alongside Baroka FC striker Richard Mbulu or Polokwane forward Khuda Muyaba.

Mozambique-based CJ Banda said the nation should have faith in them.

“If we lose again, we will not have excuses,” Banda said last week.

On the other hand, Sudan who camped in Morocco ahead of the match, boast of talented players.

Coach Cyprian Besong Ashu has included Australia-based striker Kenjok Wal Athiu, midfielder Morgan Jackson Obede (Perth SC) and goalkeeper Majak Mawith.

Defender Rashid Toha of Vipers SC, strikers Tito Okello of Gor Mahia and Machop Chol of Atlanta FC in USA have also been included.

Malawi will host Uganda at Kamuzu Stadium on Monday in their last Group B qualifier. The Flames are third with four points from four matches having lost two matches, 3-1 away to Stallions and 2-0 to Uganda.

Burkina Faso top the group with eight points, followed by Uganda on seven points whereas Sudan anchor the group with three points.

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