Bring them on!

Malawi national women’s football team believes nothing will stop them from winning the first leg of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Second Round Qualifier this Wednesday afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in the commercial city Blantyre.

National team coach Abel Mkandawire and captain Tabitha Chawinga said although Kenya is five steps ahead on Fifa rankings, they are ready to defy the odds and surprise their opponents.

Malawi is ranked 146 while Kenya is rated 141.

Tabitha (R) training with the men’s national team at Mpira Stadium in Blantyre yesterday

“Preparations have gone on well and the players are ready for the showdown. We are confident of doing well. We have agreed that if we are to be the best, we must play and beat the best,” Mkandawire said.

He added that with the availability of overseas prolific strikers China-based Tabitha and her Sweden-based younger sister Temwa, who scored 10 of Malawi’s 14 goals in the 14-1 aggregate win over Mozambique in the first round of Olympic qualifiers, they have enough arsenal to achieve glory.

Mkandawire further said their recent participation in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Championship in South Africa also played a big part in tightening up the loose ends ahead of today’s encounter.

On her part, Tabitha, who trained with the senior men’s national team the Flames on Tuesday, said they are hungry for success.

“All we ask Malawians is to come to the stadium in large numbers to give us morale. Otherwise, we are ready to make the country proud,” she said.

While Malawi has two overseas professionals in Tabitha and Temwa, Kenya has six.

However, Kenya head coach David Ouma has brought one overseas-based player Corazon Aquino who plies her trade in Sweden as the others are expected to feature in the second leg away this Sunday.

Winner of the two-legged second round qualifiers will face either Ghana or Gabon in the third round.

The Olympics are a significant event used for team rankings and, if they qualify, the national women’s football team will make history as the first Malawi sports discipline to earn a slot through qualification.

Government has since assured spectators, players and officials of their safety despite the political impasse in the country.

Director of sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Jameson Ndalama said on Tuesday: “Everything is in place and nothing can stop the national team from playing the match.”

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu and general secretary Alfred Gunda declined to comment on the issue.

FAM, through its competitions and communications director Gomezgani Zakazaka, has confirmed that people will watch the game for free.

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