Football Association of Malawi (Fam) president Walter Nyamilandu has asked the Malawi National Football Team players to make history by reaching the knockout stages of the Total Energies Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals for the first time.
The Flames have never reached the knockout phase of the competition, having exited in the group stages during the two previous editions in 1984 in Ivory Coast and 2010 in Angola.
However, Nyamilandu told the players to believe in themselves and prove their worth during the 33rd Afcon finals, which get underway tomorrow in Cameroon.
He said this was a perfect opportunity for the Flames to make history.
“We must make a record which we have never done in the past. Last time in 2010, we went to Angola we beat the strongest team of the tournament Algeria. But we lost the other two matches and bowed out. When we beat Algeria, there were huge celebrations in Malawi and up to now, Malawians still remember that match,” Nyamilandu told the players at La Valle de Bana Hotel in Cameroon.
“What will Malawians remember you for? When we leave this tournament, will Malawians remember you for good things or bad things? Malawi should not remember you for losing 10-0 or scoring own goals or for indiscipline. We must leave a mark here by qualifying for the knockout stages. You must become the first generation in our history to go past the group stages. This is a unique team. You qualified nice and clean with good results and you can do more than what others did before. Nothing is impossible.”
During the 1984 edition, the Flames drew 2-2 against Nigeria whereas in 2010 Malawi caused the tournament’s biggest upset after beating Algeria 3-0 in the opening match but suffered back- to-back defeats to Mali 3-1 and 2-0 to Angola.
Nyamilandu also said the players must have great attitude to qualify for the knock out stages.
“We need positive minds and approach in everything that we will be doing here for us to get results. We need to change our way of doing things and adopt the new approach. We need to have a big heart to go an extra mile and we will go far in this tournament,” he said.
The Flames had their first training session in Cameroon on Thursday ahead of the first Group B match against Guinea on Monday in Bafoussam.
After training, Flames interim coach Marian Mario Marinica said the players were adapting to the conditions in the West African nation.
“We did the recovery session and we focused on the two of the five pillars on social and mental state of the players. In the afternoon, we focused on tactical aspect. We also prepared on the physical aspect because we expect to face tough opposition,” he said.
The Romanian also welcomed attacking midfielder Peter Banda, midfielder Chimwemwe Idana, defender Gomezgani Chirwa and goalkeeper Charles Thom, who missed the 10-day training camp in Saudi Arabia.
Former Flames midfielder Peterkins Kayira said it would be a tall order for Malawi to reach the knockout phase.
“To be honest, our chances are slim. But in football anything can happen. We need a miracle,” Kayira said.
In the second match of the group stages, the Flames will face Zimbabwe on January 14 before meeting Senegal in the last match four days later.