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Malawi under-23 finalise preparations with Egypt match

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By Mabvuto Kambuwe:

Malawi under-23 national football team ventures into unfamiliar territory this evening with a friendly against Egypt’s young Pharaohs at Petro Sport Stadium in Cairo this evening.

The junior Flames are preparing for two back-to-back under-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against Zambia this month.

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After playing six strength-testing matches in Belgium where they registered two wins, two draws and two losses, Malawi landed in Egypt to measure their resolve against a fellow African side before returning home Saturday.

This is a perfect opportunity for junior Flames Coach Meke Mwase to assess his charges before facing Zambia on March 20 at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

The neighbours meet again in Lusaka four days later for the return fixture.

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Mwase said the match against Egypt is an opportunity to have a final look at his charges.

“We are set for this important match which will give us a picture of our readiness to face Zambia. The players are in the right frame of mind and they have promised to give out their best. Our focus is on the Zambia game but we need to do well against Zambia to boost the confidence of the players,” he said.

Egypt Coach, Hossam El- Badry, is also likely to take the match seriously as the North African country will host the under-23 Afcon finals in November.

Mwase is likely to bank his hopes on captain Chimwemwe Idana who was the best player during the Belgium tour after scoring three goals.

Other potential match winners for Malawi are Peter Banda, Mike Mkwate, Francis Mkonda, Juma Yatina and Isaac Kaliati.

But the junior Flames will be without Ernest Tambe due to injury.

A local football analyst, who is also a football coach, Stanley Chirwa, said Malawi needs such matches to help players gain the required experience.

“Egypt is a good team and we will learn a lot from playing against them. We should try different combinations and systems in this match to prepare well for Zambia,’’ he said.

During the Belgium tour, Malawi lost by 3-1 margins to STVV and Oud-Heverlee Leuven but beat Roda JC 1-0 and KRC Genk 3-2, respectively.

The junior Flames finalised their tour of the European country with a 1-1 draw against Patro MM which was followed by a 2-2 stalemate against SP Hasselt.

Malawi progressed to the second round of the continental competition after beating Botswana 3-2 on aggregate.

The overall winner between Malawi and Zambia will face either Congo Brazzaville or Burundi in the final qualifying round for this year’s finals.

The top three teams at the Egypt tournament will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan.

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