Tough test await Malawi in Morocco

Gerald Phiri Jnr

The Flames are ranked 78 places below Morocco in the FIFA Rankings and their clash looks like a mismatch.

It seems like ages ago that the Atlas Lions crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after failing to get three points off their third group B game against Spain.

Gerald Phiri Jnr: One of the senior players in today’s match.

The Moroccans drew 2-2 against Spain before clashing out of the tournament and the disappointment of that game has worn off as they have once again regrouped this time for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Malawi on Saturday, September 8.

The Atlas Lions lost to Cameroon in their opening group B match and with no distraction this time, all the attention is on collecting their first three points over the Flames who won their opening match 1-0 courtesy of a fantastic strike from Gerald Phiri Jnr.

Without Juventus’ Medhi Benatia and Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal, the Moroccans have plenty of options to choose from as they aim for their first win in the qualification phase.

Coach Herve Renard has assembled a very strong squad to play the minnows who are adamant of causing an upset in Rabat for the second time in eleven meetings between the two sides.

Malaga goalkeeper Munir El Kajoui is expected to man the goalposts while Marouane Da Costa, Romain Saiss, Nabir Dirar, Hamza Mendyl and Achraf Hakimi will play in defence, with Karim Ahmadi, Sofyan Amrabat, Amine Harit and Youssef Ait Bennacer expected to feed Youssef En-Nesryi and Yassine Bammou upfront.

However, undermining Malawi will be too suicidal.

Flames out in Morocco.

Despite having an edge over their Southern African opponents, the Atlas Lions once lost to the rookies 1-0 in 1994 in Casablanca and if history can repeat itself, then it won’t just be a walkover.

The Flames, through their captain Limbikani Mzava have vowed to upset their opponents at their own backyard despite going into the encounter as underdogs.

With Gabadinho Mhango, Atusaye Nyondo, Chiukepo Msowoya, Richard Mbulu and Patrick Phiri, the lowly ranked side have enough firepower to cause havoc in Rabat.

Experienced goalkeeper Charles Swini is likely to return to his position, with captain Mzava, John Lanjesi, Yamikani Fodya and Gomezgani Chirwa covering in defence.

Ronny Van Geneugden is likely to use five midfielders in order to avoid opening up at the back, with one striker upfront.

In previous meetings between the two sides, Malawi have won once, drawn twice and lost nine times to the Northern African giants.

The last meeting between Malawi and Morocco in a competitive match ended 1-0 in favor of the Atlas Lions.

It’s a battle of destiny for the Flames as they hope to keep their qualification hopes alive. Collecting something out of this encounter will put Malawi on a driving seat before hosting their opponents in the coming months.