Malawi national football team begins life under new Coach Meke Mwase with a clash against Botswana at Francistown Sports Complex this afternoon.
This is the first competitive match for Mwase after Football Association of Malawi offered him a year-long deal alongside his assistant Lovemore Fazili.
Mwase is exercising caution ahead of the game as the two meet in the return leg at Kamuzu Stadium on Tuesday.
He said victory this afternoon would boost their chances of advancing to the group stages.
The former TN Stars coach said he was impressed with his charges’ response in training ahead of the match.
“It feels great when you win away. It shows your seriousness and intent. I have therefore asked the boys to die fighting and make the nation proud. We need to kill them off here and finish the job back home on Tuesday,” Mwase said.
Seasoned midfielders Chimango Kayira and John ‘CJ’ Banda have said they are confident of a win.
“Almost two years have elapsed since I last played for the national team and I am glad to back. There are new and young players who are playing good football. Playing in a big competition like the World Cup gives players exposure. This is our chance to prove that we are good enough for international football,” Kayira said.
Stand-in Banda said the team should excite the nation with a win.
“We have no excuses. We need to win this match at all cost. As players, we know the importance of this game. It is high time we made the nation proud,” he said.
With the coming in of attacker Robin Ngalande and Kayira, Mwase will have to decide whether to maintain the services of Chimwemwe Idana and Banda who commanded the midfield at this year’s Cosafa in Durban, South Africa.
Gabadinho Mhango is expected to partner Richard Mbulu with Micium Mhone and left footer Gerald Phiri operating from the wings.
Peter Cholopi is likely to lead the defence alongside the Bullets trio of Gomegzani Chirwa, Precious Sambani and Charles Petro with Ernest Kakhobwe expected to start in goals.
This would be the 23rd meeting between the two sides with the Flames winning 13 matches, drawing five and losing four times.
In 2013, Malawi lost 1-0 to Botswana in a friendly match in Gaborone before settling for a 1-1 stalemate at the Cosafa Cup in South Africa last year.
The Flames last beat Botswana in 2004 during a World Cup qualifier.