The Flames say they are determined to convert fantasy into reality and qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) by seeing off Uganda’s Cranes this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Malawi are within touching distance of qualifying for the continental showpiece after six straight failed attempts.
They are third in Group B with seven points, just a point adrift of second-placed Uganda while Burkina Faso—who have already sailed through—top the four-team group with nine points. Only the top two teams from each group will qualify.
The Flames, have experienced depths of despair for far too long, but in an interview on Sunday, captain Limbikani Mzava said they will fight every inch of the way in a quest for a third appearance at the African safari.
He said: “We will give it our best shot for the cause of the nation. It’s every player’s dream to play at such a big event. It will be painful if we don’t realise our dream, considering that it is in our own hands.
“It won’t be easy. We know it will be tough and the key factor will be our approach. We’ll have to remain focused throughout the match.”
There was no hint of nerves or fear from the Flames skipper as he spoke and the Flames were also an oasis of calm as they worked on their final touches at the match venue On Sunday afternoon.
Coach Meck Mwase said his charges are determined to give their long-suffering fans,something that will cheer their spirits.
“The players are determined to play the game of their lives. We know Uganda, they are a tough side, but we have done our home work on them.
“If we play according to our game plan, then we will win tomorrow [today],” he said.
The Flames gaffer also said he is not under pressure going into the showdown.
“Of course, it is a decider and there is a lot of expectation from Malawians, but I am not losing my sleep,” said Mwase, sounding ice-cool.
The Flames, who will be without their South Africa-based star forward Frank ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango due to a yellow cards’ suspension, have enough options in Richard Mbulu, Khuda Muyaba and Robin Ngalande upfront while Gerald Phiri Jnr, John ‘CJ’ Banda, Peter Banda and Chimwewe Idana will orchestrate play in midfield.
The Cranes captain Dennis Onyango believes they need to play total football if they are to make it to Cameroon.
“Qualification is still in our hands and we still have to fight harder. We do not need any favours from anyone, so we need to do ourselves a favour and get results.
“We need to play total football, not sitting back because it might cause more problems if you sit back, but those are the tactics for the coaches,” he was quoted as having said by Goal.com.
So, this is it—the Flames dreams, hopes and fears being defined this afternoon.
All the waiting is about to come to an end.
Uganda, who won the first leg 2-0 away in Kampala last year, are ranked 83rd in Fifa/Coca-Cola World Rankings, 60 places above the Flames.
The two teams have met 29 times from which Uganda have won 15, Malawi have won eight while six ended in draws.
The Flames have been to Afcon three times while Uganda have qualified seven times, including the past two editions. They were runners-up in 1978.
Although the match will be played without spectators, the nation has been gripped by a wave of football fever.