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Flames test

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Malawi national football team test its pedigree when lining up against Sierra Leone during today’s dress rehearsal for Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Guinea.

The practice match is scheduled for Siaka Stevens Stadium in Free Town, where the two teams are at liberty to agree on substitutes to feature and the actual duration of the game.

Therefore, the flexible nature of the training game works to the advantage of Flames coach, Ernest Mtawali, for him to try different combinations and all players at his disposal. The Flames proceed to Conakry after the game in Free Town.

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The match should give Mtawali an idea of his charges’ preparedness for the back-to-back challenges against the Sly Nationale (Guinea), who also visit Kamuzu Stadium on Tuesday.

Mtawali admitted that he would have loved to have a full friendly, “but the reality is that we can only play on Fifa-sanctioned day for friendlies. The preparations are progressing well. The players are showing hunger and determination.”

The Flames go into today’s match as favourites having defeated Leone Stars twice—5-0 and 4-2—on July 6 and 9 in 1978 during Independence Celebrations games.

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In captain, Limbikani Mzava’s absence, Chiukepo Msowoya will lead the team-line with Brighton Munthali set for his senior team bow, joining on the pitch his former Under-20 team-mates, Stanley Sanudi and Miracle Gabeya in defence.

Malawi cannot afford any slip in the race for a place at Gabon finals next year. The Flames are third in the group with a point from two games, whereas Swaziland, who host Zimbabwe also Friday, top the standings on four points.

Ghanaian Sellas Tetteh is in temporary charge of the Leone Stars, who are ranked 115 in the world on the latest Fifa Coca-cola world chart. Malawi is rated 104.

Tetteh, who guided Sierra Leone to a goalless draw against the reigning African champions, Ivory Coast last year, has named 12 foreign-based players in his squad for three back-to-back matches, starting with Malawi.

“We have prepared well for these matches despite several hiccups. I am sure the fans will be there in their numbers to give us the support to do well for the nation. The boys are in high spirit and highly motivated,” Tetteh is quoted as saying on www.sierraleonefootball.net

Captain, Kei Kamara, is expected to lead the hosts, whose defence includes David Simbo, who visited Malawi with Sudan’s Al Hilal for a Caf Champions League match against Nyasa Big Bullets last year.

Leone Stars are currently bottom of Group I with a single point. Today’s is Sierra Leone’s first home match since the country’s suspension was lifted over Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.

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