The Flames have been drawn in a “relatively fair” group in the qualifiers of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
Malawi, who have only qualified for the continental showpiece twice [in 1984 and 2010], have been drawn in Group L alongside Guinea’s Sylli Nationale, Zimbabwe’s Warriors and Swaziland’s Sihlangu.
The Flames will host Zimbabwe in their first game during the weekend of 12,13 and 14 June this year before travelling to Swaziland during the weekend of 4,5 and 6 September this year. Then they will travel to Guinea for their last first-round during the weekend of 23,24 and 25 March 2016.
Their first second-round match will be against Guinea during the weekend of 27, 28 and 29 March 2016 at home before travelling to Zimbabwe during the weekend of 3, 4 and 5 June and the last one will be against Swaziland on 2, 3 and 4 September.
While all the three teams have the potential to stand in Flames’ way, the major stumbling block could be Guinea who qualified for the quarter-finals of the 2015 Afcon through the lottery draw of lots.
Coach Young Chimodzi and captain Joseph Kamwendo described it as a “fair draw.”
“Nowadays there is nothing like an easy group, but we could not have asked for a better draw than this one.
“I think it is fair and it is now up to us to do the job. However, having said that, it will depend on several factors such as preparations and approach,” said Chimodzi.
Asked which team he feels could stand in Flames’ way, Chimodzi said: “I really can’t say which one is tough and which one is easy, suffice to say we need to exercise a lot of caution.”
Kamwendo said: “I think it is a fair draw. All the three opponents are within our rank and it will be up to us to deliver, but maybe I should take this opportunity to appeal to the authorities that
this is the right time to start preparing if we are really serious about qualifying this time around.”
The top team in each group, two best runners-up and the hosts will qualify for the finals.
The last time the Flames faced Guinea was in September 2009 during the 2010 joint Afcon/World Cup qualifiers at Kamuzu Stadium and Malawi came out 2-1 victors through goals from Robert Ng’ambi and Chiukepo Msowoya and the last time Flames faced Zimbabwe was in an international friendly in March last year at Kamuzu Stadium and the Warriors won 4-1.
Champions Cote d’ Ivoire are in Group I alongside Sudan, Sierra Leone and Gabon. Zambia are in Group E with Kenya, Guinea Bissau and Congo.