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Last chance

Flames in must-win match against eSwatini

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Mario Marinica

After starting the 2022 Hollywoodbets Cosafa Cup with a 2-1 loss to Lesotho on Wednesday, Malawi National Football Team must bounce back and register a win against eSwatini if it is to stand a chance of progressing to the quarterfinals.

Malawi and eSwatini are in action at King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban, South Africa, this afternoon.

The Flames need a win at all cost to keep their Cosafa Cup quarterfinals dream alive.

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This is another tricky fixture for Malawi as Sihlangu are oozing with confidence after a 3-0 victory over Mauritius on Wednesday.

A loss in today’s match will mean elimination from the regional competition for the Flames with a game to spare while a draw may give them a slight chance, depending on the result between Mauritius and Lesotho, who will be in action later at the same venue.

This will be the second time for the Flames and Sihlangu to meet in Cosafa Cup, with Malawi winning the first encounter 1-0 in 2007.

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However, this afternoon’s fixture promises fireworks as the Flames will be looking to get their Cosafa Cup campaign back on track.

In this encounter, Flames coach Mario Marinica is likely to ring changes to the side that started against Lesotho.

Goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe, who was at fault for the first goal against Lesotho, could pave the way for youngster Clever Mkungula.

The back four of Stanley Sanudi, Sankhani Mkandawire, Blessings Mpokera and Precious Sambani will need to reorganise if it is to stop a free-scoring eSwatini.

Marinica may need to consider starting Paul Ndhlovu ahead of Mpokera.

In midfield, the Flames mentor is likely to go with John Banda, Chimwemwe Idana and Peter Banda.

Micium Mhone could also be a good option.

Upfront, it is high time striker Khuda Muyaba started on the bench as he has failed to live up to expectations.

The last time Muyaba scored was during a World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast in a 2-1 loss last year.

Striker Gabadinho Mhango should keep his place upfront but Schumacher Kuwali or Yamikani Chester could be better options to partner him.

Veteran striker Chiukepo Msowoya is another good option upfront.

Marinica admitted that it will not be easy for his charges to play three matches in six days.

“We would have loved to have more players but Cosafa allowed only 23 players unlike in the past. We have high intensity matches and we have to use ice baths and also do some recovery sessions,” he said.

Marinica is under pressure to deliver, having assembled a full squad for this year’s competition.

On the other hand, Sihlangu coach Dominic Kunene has assembled an entirely home-based squad of 23 players.

eSwatini top Group B with three points, above Lesotho on goal difference whereas Malawi and Mauritius have no point after starting with losses.

Overall group winners will advance to the quarterfinals for a showdown with guest team Senegal.

Former Flames defender Charles Manda, who is based in Lesotho, said Malawi should expect a tough match against eSwatini.

“It is a tricky match and a hard one for Malawi. We need to be at our best to beat them as they have good players as well,” Manda, who stints with some eSwatini teams, said.

The Flames reached the quarterfinals in 2019 but exited following a 4-2 loss on post-match penalties to Zambia.

Last year, Malawi exited in the group stages following two losses and two draws.

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