The clock is ticking towards the Flames’ 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group B opening match against Guinea’s National Elephants at Kouekong Stadium in Cameroon at 6pm today.
Malawi is seeking to reach the Afcon Knockout stage for the first time after all of their previous two appearances ended in the group stages.
This will be Malawi’s third time appearance at the finals, having made their debut in 1984 under coach Henry Moyo.
Winning, however, should be high on Malawi’s agenda as this game is going to give an idea of what Marian Mario Marinica’ side is going to offer in the 24-team competition.
A win would boost the Flames’ confidence ahead of the remaining matches against favorites Senegal and Zimbabwe, while a loss would leave them with a very difficult task of trying to qualify to the next stage of the tournament.
Although from the outset, it may appear as though Malawi do not stand a chance against the star-studded Guinean team, anything can happen in the world of football.
For example, at the 2010 Afcon tournament in Angola, Malawi hammered Algeria 3-0 to start their campaign on a very high note, a result that was a huge AFCON upset as the Desert Foxes had a cream of players and were one of the favorites to win the tournament.
Yes, seven of our players will not be part of the opening fixture following positive results for Covid-19 but the players who will be available for the match will try to prove a point that they are also equally good to be given a slot in the first eleven.
All the Flames need to do is to act normal, be at ease, be free and focus on their own game rather than that of their opponents. They need not to read too much into what the international football family is saying about the overall strength of Guinea and Senegal, who have got a cream of players.
Meck Mwase, who will be on the touchline in the absence of Marinica who tested positive for Covid-19, should also make the team understand that they will be playing 11 against 11 and that names do not count much in African football competitions.
For the record, Senegal, which is known to have best players playing in top European leagues, has never won Afcon tournament. In 2017, a star-studded Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2017 Afcon finals.
Football history is also littered with upsets. Nobody gave the Portuguese national team any chance of lifting the European Cup until they overcame the hosts, France in the final. Malawi can also do the same by upsetting Guinea.
Minus the supporters at the Stadium, sports bars at home should be full to the brim as the nation rallies behind the Flames.
Those privileged enough to be at Kouekong Stadium on Monday evening will surely give the team all the support they need, even when things are not going in Malawi’s favor.
Without Gabadinho Mhango, Charles Petro, Robin Ngalande, Stainley Sanudi, Peter Cholopi, Lawrence Chaziya and Chikoti Chirwa due to Covid-19, the Flames have a huge task but a Soldier is always ready to fight even under a very difficult circumstance.
It now remains for the Flames to deliver the goods.