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Gabadinho Mhango, Peter Banda jet in for Ethiopia qualifier

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George Chiusiwa

Malawi National Football Team Coach Mario Marinica has received a timely boost ahead of Sunday’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Ethiopia following the arrival of South Africa-based striker Gabadinho Mhango and attacker Peter Banda, who plies his trade in Tanzania.

Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Communications and Competitions Director Gomezgani Zakazaka said Banda joined the squad on Tuesday while Mhango arrived Wednesday.

Zakazaka said the former Nyasa Big Bullets superstar trained with the squad in the afternoon while the Simba SC dribbling wizard attended his first training session on Tuesday afternoon.

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“We will have a full squad on Wednesday [yesterday] afternoon. Gaba was the only one remaining on the list of foreign country-based players called up for camp training. The coach will have all the players he wanted in his squad as the team gears up for the Sunday match,” he said.

Zakazaka said Ethiopia were expected to arrive today.

However, Flames coach Mario Marinica said Banda was doubtful while Fodya had been ruled out.

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“Fodya has an injury so we have to excuse him. As for Peter, he came with a slight knock from his club and has been having the injury for the past one week. But he is recovering well and we remain hopeful,” Marinica said.

Banda said he was happy to be part of the team.

“I look forward to another qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations finals. We need to be there in Ivory Coast next year. It is always good to represent your country at big international competitions and I am happy to be part of the squad to face Ethiopia and Guinea. I believe qualifying for the finals is possible,” he said.

The Flames take on Ethiopia at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe without captain Limbikani Mzava, who is recovering from injury.

Strikers Richard Mbulu and Robin Ngalande, who were part of the team that finished in the round-of-16 at the 2021 Afcon finals in Cameroon, will also miss the match as they were not called up.

Football pundit George Chiusiwa said the current squad is capable of winning on Sunday.

“All the players who have been drafted into the final squad must know that they have a lot of work to do. Malawians will be looking forward to a win and I am hopeful that they will continue where they stopped in Cameroon.

“We are a victory-hungry nation. Starting the qualifiers with a win will be great for the team’s morale ahead of the match against Guinea,” Chiusiwa said.

The Flames are in Group D of the continental competition’s qualifiers alongside Ethiopia, Guinea and Egypt.

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