Flames set for Bangladesh test in Saudi Arabia
History is set to be written as the Malawi National Football Team takes on lowly-ranked Bangladesh during a practice match in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh this evening.
The two sides are strangers to each other as they have never met at any stage, owing to their coming from two different continents.
According to Britannica.com, Bangladesh is a South Asian country that lies on the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent.
It is best known for being a top cricket-playing nation and is a full member of the International Cricket Council.
The match has, therefore, attracted debate across Malawi, as Bangladesh are ranked 192nd on Fifa rankings, 68 places below the Flames.
This could be a genuine concern for local fans as the Flames are using the match to prepare for the 2024 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) back-to-back qualifiers against Egypt, who lie 32nd on the rankings.
However, Malawi should guard against underrating their opponents as rankings have not always been the determining factor of results.
Probably, Bangladesh might be looking forward to proving a point against the Flames.
Malawi will go into the match, having lost 1-0 and drawn 1-1 in friendlies against Lesotho about four weeks ago.
The results left Flames coach Mario Marinica with concerns over the fitness levels of his troops.
The match would, therefore, be a perfect opportunity for Marinica to assess his charges before the crucial matches against Egypt later this month.
The Flames arrived in Medina, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday after failing to depart on Thursday due to visa challenges.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Technical Manager James Sangala said the team was geared for the match.
“The team had a number of training sessions before this match; so, all is set,” Sangala said.
The Flames have been boosted by the arrival of Scotland-based defender Kieran Ngwenya for the match while Francisco Madinga was expected to join the team Tuesday.
Ngwenya returns to the team after making his debut during a friendly against Tanzania in June 2021.
Malawi will be without captain John Banda, who is yet to fly out from Mozambique due to logistical challenges.
It is likely that Marinica will give a run out to all his players so as to ascertain their readiness for Egypt.
However, sports analyst Parry Chinyama said the Flames will not benefit from the match.
“Technically, we are better off than Bangladesh. The only benefit from the match is an improvement in match fitness levels of our players. We cannot say facing Bangladesh in a friendly will help us prepare well for Egypt.
“One wonders why Fam settled for Bangladesh and not the host nation’s team, which was at the last World Cup and caused a big shock by beating world champions Argentina 2-1. Surely, Fam could have done much better,” Chinyama said.
Several Flames foreign country-based players are not part of the Saudi Arabia camp training for various reasons but will fly straight to Egypt from their respective bases for the first leg slated for March 24.
Malawi will then host the Pharaohs at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe some four days later.
The Flames and Egypt are in Group D of the qualifiers, together with Ethiopia and Guinea.
The group is still wide open with all the four teams tied on three points each.