Flames seek redemption
With a battered reputation on the continent following comical displays in recent games, Malawi National Football Team Head Coach, Ronny Van Geneugden, is hoping to turn the corner this afternoon as the Flames host Comoros Islands in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
The two sides are separated by 27 places on the Coca-Cola Fifa ranking with the Flames on position 117 whereas the visitors are on position 144, but the Flames must be at their best to win this afternoon’s encounter.
But facing a team that went 20 games without a win until last year, the Flames should be careful against the Indian Ocean island nation.
It will be Geneugden’s fourth game in charge having made it three consecutive games without a win since he took over in April.
With 270 minutes gone without scoring a goal in all competitions, the Flames must find the perfect formula this afternoon against a side packed with France-born players.
From afar, the fixture against Comoros looks an easy one for the home side but tough on the ground as the Flames are inconsistent.
Perhaps the morale is high in camp following the availability of several foreign-based players from Mozambique and South Africa.
With Sports Minister Henry Mussa visiting the team’s camp in the week, the Flames could be fired up to impress the home crowd.
Geneugden told journalists in Lilongwe this week, that the Flames players were in high spirits and ready to rumble.
“I feel the team is ready and the players have started adapting to my philosophy. We hope it will be a good game against Comoros and we appeal to the fans to support us. They are our player number 12 and we value their contribution,” he said on Tuesday.
Probably, the Belgian has enough quality at his disposal and he will have no excuse if things go the wrong way today.
Without experienced midfielder Robert Ng’ambi, the Belgian has several options including versatile Gerald Phiri Jnr and Frank Banda.
In attack, Bidvest Wits forward Frank Gabadihno Mhango is the favourite to lead the firing squad alongside Richard Mbulu with John Banda, Yamikani Chester and Micium Mhone operating from the flanks.
At the back, captain Limbikani Mzava, John Lanjesi, Francis Mlimbika and Stanely Sanudi are likely to start to provide cover to whoever will man the sticks between the four goalkeepers, namely Enerst Kakhobwe, Lemani Nthala, Charles Swini and Owen Chaima.
Comoros coach, Amir Abdou, might bank his hopes on a pool of talented foreign-based players including skipper Nadjim Abdou who plays for English Division One side Millwal FC and Salim Ben Boina of French giants Marseille FC.
The France-born coach told the media recently that his side was aiming to qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals.
““Our objective is to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. We do not plan to just make up the numbers. We have ambitions and we hope to display that in the qualifiers,” he told ESPN recently.
“Of course we are aware we are not favourites in the group with holders Cameroon and Morocco, one of the best teams on the continent. But with football, everything is possible and this is the beauty of sport.”
The Flames were booted out of the African Nations Championship when they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Madagascar in April.
Comoros have two victories in 18 Afcon games since debuting in 2007.
Their first win came last year when they beat improved Botswana 2-1 before registering a 2-0 victory over Mauritius in March this year in the preliminary rounds of the Afcon tournament.
Morroco and Cameroon will also be in action in the same group.
Only group winners will advance to the finals slated to take place in 2019 but the second-placed team will advance from the group in the event of Cameroon emerging top.
The Cameroonians automatically qualify for the tournament as they are hosting the 2019 finals.
FLAMES LAST FIVE GAMES (minus friendly games)
Malawi 1-Guinea 2
Zimbabwe 3-0 Malawi
Malawi 1 -0 Swaziland
Madagascar 1-0 Malawi
Malawi 0-1 Madagascar
COMOROS LAST FIVE GAMES:
Uganda 1-0 Comoros
Togo 2 -0 Comoros
Gabon 1 -1 Comoros
Comoros 2-0 Mauritius
Mauritius 1-1 Comoros
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