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Malawi eye Zebra delicacy

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By Peter Kanjere:

Meke Mwase

Malawi national football team has been drawn against Botswana’s delicious Zebras in the 2022 Fifa World Cup preliminary round qualifiers, following a draw for Confederation of African Football (Caf)-affiliated teams.

Reacting to the draw Monday, Flames Coach Meck Mwase said he was not salivating over the prospect of having a taste of the Zebras because everything hinges on preparedness.

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“I can’t say this is a tough or simple draw. All we can do is give our opponents enough respect and instill confidence in our players. We have been waiting for this draw and now it is a question of starting our preparations,” Mwase said.

Caf website reports that the draw was based on June 2019 Fifa World Rankings and the continent’s 26 top-ranked teams will join the qualifiers from the first round after being excluded from preliminary round matches.

Preliminary round games involving 28 teams, including the Flames, will be played over two legs with 14 higher ranked teams away to their lowly ranked opponents in first leg matches.

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In view of this, the Zebras (ranked 147) will host the Flames (126) between September 2 and 10. The 14 winners will join the 26 highest ranked teams which will then be divided into 10 groups of four teams each.

Malawi can start the preliminary round matches with a measure of confidence as they have, in 22 meetings with Botswana, won 13 games and lost four, with the rest being draws.

Apart from the World Cup qualifiers, the Flames also have 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers to stress about, having been drawn in Group B alongside Burkina Faso, Uganda and either South Sudan or Seychelles later this year.

After the group games, 10 group winners will be paired based on ranking to compete in a two-legged play-off round, with five higher ranked teams playing the first legs away.

The last game between Malawi and Botswana ended 1-1 on May 30 2018 at the Cosafa Cup in South Africa.

The final five teams will represent Africa at the World Cup to be hosted by Qatar in 2022.

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