Malawi under-20 national football team step onto the natural grass of Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe with one mission of claiming victory when facing Swaziland in the first-leg of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers Saturday afternoon.
The Junior Flames will travel to Swaziland for the second-leg slated for April 21.
Buoyed by the presence of Portugal-based forward, Abel Mwakilama, who joined the team on Wednesday, the Junior Flames hope for a good start against Swaziland.
On paper, the Junior Flames are favourites to win but they must exercise caution when hosting the much-improved Swaziland.
Having failed to play international friendlies, the Meke Mwase-led technical panel has a daunting task of building confidence among the charges who will be playing their first game in front of the home crowd after a long time.
Mwase on Thursday said he was encouraged by the performance of his charges in training.
“We are playing at home so we have to encourage the boys to have confidence on the ball and play without pressure. We need to score more goals and defend
jealously,” Mwase said.
Apart from Mwakilama, the Junior Flames have talent in abundance, with Captain Charles Thom, Peter Banda and Hastings Banda all available.
Swaziland arrived on Wednesday and warned the Junior Flames to expect a tough run for their money today.
The two teams last met in the 2017 Cosafa Youth Championship where Malawi got the better of their opponents with a 3-2 victory at Arthur Davis Stadium in Zambia.
Swaziland, led by Coach Mandla Dlamini, are likely to feature Mlamuli Lukhele in goals with Muzi Tsabedze and Order Mamba leading the attack.
Swaziland warmed up for Malawi by playing matches against Botswana (twice) and Mozambique last week.
The overall winner between Malawi and Swaziland will face Angola in the second-round of the qualifiers.
Malawi has gone 19 years without qualifying for the under-20 continental showpiece, having achieved it in 1999 in Ghana.
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