Flames players must develop self-belief and put their egos aside when facing Burkina Faso in a return leg of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying match at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre this afternoon.
This is a must win match for the Flames to remain in contention for the 2022 finals. It has been over 10 years since Malawi hosted Burkina Faso in Afcon qualifiers but the two teams are meeting for the second time in five days after the Flames lost 3-1 in the first leg in Ouagadougou on Thursday night.
The Flames, ranked 123 in the World, must quickly forget and bounce back in today’s fixture to keep their Afcon dream alive.
As usual, it will not be an easy fixture as, in five matches between Malawi and Burkina Faso, the Flames have lost four matches and managed a draw in 1999 at home.
On the road to the 2010 Afcon finals in Angola, the Stallions defeated Malawi home and away by 1-0 margins. The two sides also met in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers, Burkina Faso beating Malawi 4-2 in Ouagadougou and sharing the spoils after a 1-1 draw at Kamuzu Stadium.
Flames skipper John Banda and his troops will go into the battle today attempting to tear up history of playing second fiddle to the Stallions. A loss in today’s fixture will see Flames chances of making it to the Promised Land fade into thin air.
But a win will enhance the Flames chances of making it to the Afcon finals. With three rounds of matches played in the Afcon qualifiers, the Flames have three points, four points behind joint leaders Uganda and Burkina Faso. Malawi will also host Uganda and travel to South Sudan for return matches next year.
To get a positive result, the Flames must show more precision and composure in front of goal, having only scored a single goal in four matches.
Without leading striker Gabadinho Mhango, Flames coach Meck Mwase will likely trust Baroka FC striker Richard Mbulu upfront with Schumacher Kuwali and Yamikani Chester also part of the attacking verve.
Despite losing the first leg, Mwase remained upbeat.
Another concern for Mwase is in defence which was exposed in the away fixture on Thursday. But Mwase might make changes to the squad which lost the first leg.
It will be either Brighton Munthali or Ernest Kakhobwe between the sticks whereas Stanley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi and Charles Petro are likely to start. Mwase might have selection headache in midfield between Gerald Phiri Junior, Chikoti Chirwa and Chimwemwe Idana.
On the other hand, the visitors, who arrived in the country on Saturday night, might be contented with a draw away. Leading striker Lassina Traore is carrying their hopes, having scored a brace in Ouagadougou. Bryn Dabo scored the other goal for the Stallions whereas Phiri Junior scored the face saver for Malawi.