Flames coach Meck Mwase leads his troops into what some believe is ‘mission impossible’ when facing Ivory Coast in a 2022 Qatar Fifa World Cup qualifier at Mathieu Kerekou Stadium in Cotonou, Benin, this evening.
The two teams meet for the second time having played at Orlando Stadium, South Africa, on Friday, when the Elephants thrashed Flames 3-0.
But this evening, Mwase will be hoping that his troops will fight until the last whistle.
If last Friday’s match was anything to go by, where the Flames looked disjoined and clueless, the nation should fear for the worst.
The Flames struggle against top ranked teams and Mwase will need more than a miracle to cause an upset against Ivory Coast.
Surely, the odds are stacked against the Flames in this fixture, having failed to win a match in West and Central Africa in 27 outings since 1980.
In their last trip to West Africa, the Flames suffered a 2-0 loss to the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the same competition last month.
This is a match the Flames must win to revive their World Cup dream heading into the last two fixtures of the qualifiers.
Sounding calm, Mwase said Friday’s result was water under the bridge.
“In a game of football you don’t doubt; everything is possible. We had more scoring opportunities on Friday and if we had utilised them, it would have been a different result,” he said.
“It is going to be another tough match as both teams need maximum points.”
Without captain Limbikani Mzava and Peter Banda due to injury and striker Richard Mbulu (illness), Mwase will likely make some changes to the starting line-up.
The goalkeeping position is one of Malawi’s weakest links for many years.
Mwase might keep faith in goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa as other goalkeepers Ernest Kakhobwe and Brighton Munthali lack game time at their respective clubs.
In the absence of Mzava, Peter Cholopi will likely start alongside Charles Petro, Dennis Chembezi and Stanly Sanudi.
But Mwase should take a gamble in midfield by featuring giant Chikoti Chirwa to match with the Ivorians.
Flames stand-in captain Christopher John Banda will keep his place, with either Duncan Nyoni or Yamikani Chester in place of Gerald Phiri Junior, who was too slow in the first leg.
For the Flames to get goals, they need Khuda Muyaba and Gabadinho Mhango to be composed in front of the goal.
- J Banda promised to die for the nation.
“We are expecting a tough match, taking into account that we will miss some of our colleagues,” Banda said.
Another concern for Mwase this evening is that he should expect to face a new look Ivory Coast as some stars including Wilfred Zaha, Nicolas Pepe and Sebastian Haller could be available for selection after missing the first leg.
The Elephants coach Patrice Beaumele said the Flames were not an easy team.
“I have a lot of respect for this team. It is always a tough game when I play against Malawi,” he said.
Ivory Coast top Group D with seven points from three matches, one point above second-placed Cameroon, who defeated Mozambique 3-1 also on Friday.
The Flames are third with three points whereas Mozambique have one point.
Winner in each of the 10 groups will qualify to the next round where they battle for final five slots at the 2022 World Cup.