Flames kick off Afcon campaign

Flames coach Meck Mwase says a positive result against South Sudan’s Bright Stars this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre is a must as Malawi kick off their 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) crusade.

The match is a big test for Mwase who was given a target to qualify for the 2021 Afcon after taking over the reigns from Belgian coach Ronny van Geneugden.

“The day that we have been waiting for in the past three weeks of training is finally here and we are ready. We are happy that all our foreign-based players are here and they are all fit.

Striker Gabadinho Mhango (L) is kept in check by defender Trevor Kalema during Monday afternoon’s training session

“Everybody is ready for the game tomorrow,” said Mwase during a press briefing held yesterday at Mpira Village in Chiwembe Township, Blantyre.

The Flames mentor, who is yet to lose a game in open play, said he was not under pressure.

 “Since I took over the team you will agree with me that I haven’t won as many matches but I haven’t lost any match as well. So, this is a very crucial game.

“But I don’t care about my job. I only care about the team doing well so that my players can get a chance to be spotted and signed by foreign clubs. In the end, its Malawi football that will develop,” he said.

However, Mwase warned the players against being complacent as they face a team that is just seven years old.

“We have advised the players to change their attitude. This is an Afcon qualifier and we need to collect maximum points if we are to qualify for the finals,” said the coach.

Flames captain John ‘CJ’ Banda said the players are aware of the significance of the match.

“As foreign-based players, we are not just here to see our families. We are here to win the game. It’s good that we are starting at home. If we start well I think we will have something to fight for in the coming games. As a team, we are ready to give the nation something to smile about,” he said.

Sudan made it to the group stages after seeing off Seychelles in the preliminary round.

The Bright Stars coach Ashu Cyprian Besong said he looks forward to this afternoon’s match.

“We will be going into that game with a hope of getting a result. That’s why we are here. We have our game plan. Malawi have some good players. But we will see how the game progresses. From there we will be able to adapt. But we are ready for the game and we look forward to it,” he said.

However, the Cameroonian acknowledged that he has a tough job against the Flames who are unbeaten at home since 2017.

“It’s a game of football.  It’s either you win, draw or lose,” he said.

The last time the two teams met was at the 2015 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup and the South Sudanese won 2-0.

The Flames are ranked 124th on Fifa/Coca-Cola World Rankings, 38 places above Sudan.  The other Group B members Uganda and Burkina Faso clash at Stade du 4 Août in Ouagadougou

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