After getting their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with victory over Mozambique, can Malawi push on and go on a run of good results?
With continental heavyweights, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire stationed in Malawi’s World Cup qualifying group, the odds are heavily stacked against the Flames to reach the World Cup, but this series gives the team an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best footballing nations in Africa.
Malawian fans are very realistic, and they know that it is highly unlikely for the team to qualify for Qatar. It is fair to say that not many Malawians will be putting money on the Flames to qualify for the Mundial.
Bookmakers all over the world, whether in Australia, India or betting sites in Kenya have Malawi as rank outsiders in the race for Qatar 2022.
Having said that, fans want to see some fight from the team, and improvement from previous performances.
Prior to that win over Mozambique, Malawi had failed to win any of their previous six international matches.
They were beaten by Cameroon in their opening match of the qualifying series, and before that, had failed to make any impact in the COSAFA Cup. They exited that tournament without a win, drawing two and losing two of their four round-robin matches at the event.
Hence, confidence wasn’t exactly high heading into the match against Mozambique. To make matters worse, the Flames could not play in front of their home fans after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) ruled that the Bingu National Stadium was unfit to host the qualifier.
Instead, the match was moved to South Africa.
Mozambique went into the match on the back of a commendable draw against Cote d’Ivoire, and were unbeaten in seven international matches.
The “visitors” also enjoyed a good record against Malawi, winning five and drawing two of the previous eight matches between the sides.
Malawi defied all of those stats to register a vital 1-0 victory against the Mozambicans. There was an element of good fortune about the winning goal, with Richard Mbulu taking advantage of a comical mixup in the visiting defence, but the Flames were good value for their victory. They largely controlled the match and created the better openings.
Victory over Mozambique was Malawi’s first since they defeated Uganda in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in March. Significantly, that win over Uganda confirmed the Flames’ spot in the 2022 AFCON in Cameroon.
It will be Malawi’s first appearance at the Cup of Nations in eleven years; and they have been drawn in Group B alongside Senegal, Guinea and Zimbabwe.
With the top two, and four of six third-placed teams to qualify for the knock-out rounds in Cameroon, opportunity beckons on Malawi.
That is why they must make sure they put up good performances in the World Cup qualifiers.
Even if they end up not making it to Qatar, they should build momentum and confidence, ahead of next year’s AFCON, where they will have a more realistic chance of making a significant impact.