A grudge battle is set to ensue when Malawi National Football Team takes on Zimbabwe in the 2021 Cosafa Cup at Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, South Africa, this afternoon.
Malawi will be hoping for a flying start against the Warriors, who have never lost to Malawi in a Cosafa Cup encounter since the regional competition was introduced in 1997.
Malawi and Zimbabwe have met four times in Cosafa Cup history, with the Warriors winning thrice and one match ending in a stalemate.
The Warriors beat the Flames 2-0 in 2001 at Kamuzu Stadium before winning again home and away in the cup’s final in 2003.
The last time the two sides met in the Cosafa Cup was in 2013 in Lusaka, Zambia, with the encounter ending 1-1.
However, there is renewed hope and belief in the Flames camp that the jinx will end this afternoon.
Malawi, Zimbabwe and guest nation Senegal are the only teams at the showpiece that have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals slated for next year in Cameroon and will use the tournament for preparations.
Flames coach Meck Mwase said he was confident that his troops would start the campaign on a high.
“We are all mentally and physically prepared for the first game,” Mwase said.
Malawi has blended new blood and experience in a quest to lift the cup for the first time.
The five foreign country-based players in Mwase’s squad are Tawonga Chimodzi, Schumacher Kuwali, Ndaziona Chatsalira, Dennis Chembezi and Khuda Muyaba while Stanley Sanudi, Chikoti Chirwa, Ernest Kakhobwe and Micium Mhone are among the seasoned stars that are expected to shine for Malawi.
The Flames will be dreaming about winning the cup for the first time after reaching the final in 2002 and 2003.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe, who drew 0-0 against Mozambique in their first match, have also assembled a strong squad.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic has included veteran goalkeeper Washington Arubi and Spain-based Martin Mapisa in his squad.
Logarusic was quoted in Zimbabwe’s The Herald newspaper as saying his team did not have adequate preparations.
“We had only five days of preparations. We did not have league games since November. There are no games except for the Chibuku Super Cup,” he is quoted as saying.
Malawi will face Mozambique in the second match at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday.
The Flames will take on Namibia two days later at the same venue before wrapping up their group campaign against Senegal on July 14.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals of the tournament.