If death and taxes are certainties, so is the fact that a win for the Malawi National Football Team against Uganda on Monday afternoon in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier is a must if they are to qualify for the finals slated for Cameroon next year.
Also certain is that anything less than a win from Monday’s game at Kamuzu Stadium will mean the end of the road for Malawi, who last qualified for the Afcon finals almost a decade ago.
Unlike in previous encounters where the Flames were playing deciding matches away from home, it’s totally different this time around as the deciding match will be played at their base, a venue they haven’t lost any match in the qualification round.
Others might think that the task is easy enough considering that it will be played at Kamuzu Stadium, but with the emotional rollercoaster the men’s national team have put the country through in recent years, nothing can be taken for granted.
However, Meck Mwase and his captain Limbikani Mzava says the boys are ready to qualify for the Afcon finals for the first time in eleven years.
“Finally the day is today and we are ready to beat Ghana to qualify for the Afcon finals. We were happy with our win in South Sudan last week but that result is gone, we have to focus on this game. We are playing against a very good side but we are very positive for a win. The boys are looking forward to making the national proud this afternoon,” said Mwase.
While Mzava said: “We are ready to go. We have trained well with our fellows who have been camping for the past five weeks but that won’t be an excuse as we have had five days to prepare for this match. The molare is high and we are all very much aware of how important this game is to us the players and the nation at large.
However, they are facing a side which is fast becoming a force to reckon with in West Africa.
The Cranes, who arrived in the country on Sunday through a chartered plane, have made it clear through their captain Dennis Onyango that playing away from home in the current era of Covid-19 pandemic gives no one an advantage over the other as there will be no fans watching the match.
Onyango also added that since Malawi will be looking for a win, it will be an open match which will also give his side an advantage to attack and possibly create goal scoring opportunities.
“Very interesting match because for them, it’s a must win game but for us it’s a win or a draw but we are here to get maximum results, we are not here to play defensive football. They will open up because they are looking for a win and in the same process, giving us an opportunity to create chances but it will be an interesting game.
“There is always pressure everywhere, there is also pressure on Malawi as well because they are playing at home but we have enough experience to get results away from home. Everyone has pressure but that’s the game of football and we need to have the pressure so that we perform but what is important is to take our chances, score goals and keep a clean sheet,” he said.
On playing away from home, the Mamelodi Sundowns keeper said; “During Covid-19 pandemic, there is advantage or disadvantage, anyone can win because fans are not allowed to enter into stadiums. We are all playing without fans and the game favors anyone. It’s not like before where you are playing away and the Stadium is full. A game can go either way since fans are not allowed to watch and the visiting teams play without pressure from the fans.”
The two teams have played each other 29 times, with Malawi winning 8 times and losing 15 times.
In Afcon qualifiers, Ugandans have had three wins over Malawi, with back to back victories in 2000 where they won the first leg 3-1 before completing the mission in Blantyre with a 2-1 victory.
In 2019, in the ongoing qualifiers, The Cranes were 2-0 winners over The Flames.
What could happen if Malawi fail to qualify?
If Flames don’t go to Afcon, the portents for the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers aren’t going to be very good. They have a tough assignment involving Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mozambique. So the future for Mwase is surely in this game. Anything rather than a win will see him depart from his job as his contract already expired and chances to have him extend his stay will be very minimal.
It’s a date with destiny, The Flames are closer but only a victory will guarantee them a place in Cameroon.