By Mabvuto Kambuwe in Vilankulo, Mozambique & Ronald Mpaso:
Malawi National Beach Soccer Team is set to get its campaign off to a dream start at the 2022 TotalEnergies Beach Soccer Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals with an official opening match against hosts Mozambique.
The match will kick off after the opening ceremony of the competition at Vilankulo Arena in Vilankulo, Mozambique, this afternoon.
Under the scorching heat of the Indian Ocean coastal town, Malawi must be brave and show great character against the hosts, who are ranked second in Africa.
The match is very important to both sides as they aim for a good start.
Malawi go into the match as underdogs with no experience at this stage, which is their first ever.
Their opponents enjoy the advantage of having been to this tournament before, with a second-place finish in the 2021 edition which took place in Senegal.
However, Malawi coach Willy Kumilambe said they are ready to pull a shocker this afternoon.
’’We thrive on being underdogs. Playing at the Afcon finals is a motivation for the players and they will give it their all because they know that they are carrying the hopes of the whole nation,’’ Kumilambe said.
Malawi arrived in Vilankulo on Wednesday, two days before the start of the tournament.
But Kumilambe believes fatigue will not take its toll on the players.
’’The players are all in good shape. We have been here for two days; so the players have adapted well to the hot weather conditions,’’ Kumilambe said.
A win against the hosts this afternoon will put Malawi in pole position to qualify for the semifinals heading into their final Group A match against Morocco on Monday.
Malawi captain Sandram Saddie said they are not intimidated with prospects of facing Mozambique.
’’We are here to win and make history. We are ready to die for the nation,’’ Saddie said.
Goalkeeper Justin Bonongwe is likely to start, with Saddie marshalling the defence while Isaac Kajamu will man Malawi’s engine room.
Mozambique coach Abineiro Ussaca will be hoping for a better performance from his charges, who gave away the Cosafa Beach Soccer Cup they won last year.
“After the Cosafa tournament I had a talk with my players and made them understand that we were not good in many aspects. I’m talking about concentration and finishing and from there to here, I notice a good evolution,” he said.
Mozambique’s man-to-watch is Nelson Manuel who was the best player and scorer at the 2021 continental contest.
This year, the goal poacher was voted best player and best scorer at the Cosafa Beach Soccer Cup after lifting the same accolades last year.