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Flames set for Burkina Faso tie

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Meck Mwase

Malawi national football team’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification campaign faces a stern test with a tie against Burkina Faso in the first leg of two back-to-back qualifiers at Stade du 4 Aout in Ouagadougou this evening.

A positive result is what the Flames need in this match to keep their qualification dream alive before a return leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Monday.

The two fixtures are expected to determine Malawi’s fate in the continental qualifiers.

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The last four matches between the two teams have largely favoured Burkina Faso, who have won thrice with the other match ending in a stalemate.

The Stallions defeated Malawi home and away by 1-0 margins during the 2010 Afcon finals that Angola hosted.

In the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, Burkina Faso beat Malawi 4-2 in Ouagadougou before sharing the spoils after a 1-1 draw at Kamuzu Stadium.

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Tonight’s fixture has come at a time the Flames suffered a setback on Monday when 16 players and the entire technical panel failed to connect to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, enroute to Ouagadougou due to flight connection hitches.

However, Coach Meck Mwase was still hopeful of getting a positive result in the away match against the Stallions who boast of experience and a wealth of Europe-based talent.

“We know what we want to do in Burkina Faso. We have had hectic moments during our travel but we must accept that these things happen. My hope is that the boys will remain positive, whatever the case.

“What I know for sure is that when God wants to bless you, there are challenges that stand in your way to discourage you. But we just have to remain hopeful and put up our best show,” Mwase said.

The former TN Stars mentor is in the West African country without striker Gabadinho Mhango and defender Limbikani Mzava.

Top striker Mhango was ruled out after sustaining a groin injury about three weeks ago during a Premier Soccer League (PSL) match against Stellenbosch.

Mzava was expected to return to the Flames after over two years’ absence but failed to join the squad as he tested positive for Covid-19.

In Mhango’s absence, Mwase will likely put his faith in Baroka FC striker Richard Mbulu, who started the season like a house on fire with three goals in two matches.

UD Songo forward Schumacher Kuwali and Las Vegas Lights attacker Yamikani Chester are expected to provide support in the firing department.

Ahead of the crunch tie, Mwase is likely to face selection headaches as regards who starts between Brighton Munthali and Ernest Kakhobwe whereas Stanely Sanudi, Precious Sambani, Peter Cholopi and Charles Petro are the candidates for the back four.

The hunt for a valuable away point is expected to compel Mwase to pack the midfield in a bid to smother the visitors’ movements into the final third.

The Flames have struggled to find the back of the net in two consecutive games. The last time Malawi scored was against South Sudan in their first group match through Mhango.

Malawi started camp training early last month and organised two friendlies to help Mwase finetune his charges after returning from over six months of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Flames travelled to Lusaka where they lost 0-1 to Zambia before firing more blanks in a goal-less draw with Zimbabwe at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre.

Stallions Coach Kamou Malo has assembled a strong squad but will be without injured Aston Villa forward Betrand Traore.

Burkina Faso’s trump card is likely to be Ajax Amsterdam star Lassina Traore and the Flames will do well to limit his forays into the danger zone.

Malawi are currently third in Group B of the qualifiers with three points from two games after beating South Sudan 1-0 at Kamuzu Stadium before a 2-0 loss to Uganda in Kampala.

Uganda and Burkina Faso are joint leaders with four points from the same number of games whereas South Sudan anchor the group without a point.

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