Jnr Flames set to roast Zebras, Kaonga carries Malawi’s hopes

Malawi Under-20 national soccer team coach Ernest Mtawali and his trump card Chawanangwa Kaonga have said they are confident of roasting Botswana’s Young Zebras this afternoon if they can stick to their game plan.

The match is slated to start at 4pm local time at Molepolele Stadium in the outskirts of Botswana’s capital, Gaborone.

Jnr Flames' trump card: Kaonga (in white)
Jnr Flames’ trump card: Kaonga (in white)

Speaking from Gaborone, Mtawali said he has no reason to doubt his charges’ capabilities to beat Botswana and qualify for the second-round of the CAF Africa Youth Championship.

The hosts carry an away goal advantage having held the Junior Flames to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Blantyre.But Mtawali said that is no cause for worry.

“The game against South Africa gave us a chance to try the approach that we want to use against Botswana and while we were blunt in front of goal, it worked very well. There has also been tremendous improvement in coordination, especially from midfield going upfront,” said Mtawali.

He also said the other plus has been the perfect combination of Kaonga and Khumbo Ng’ambi upfront.

“The emphasis has been that they should follow each other with the help of the attacking midfielder and not just attack blindly. We want to get an early goal so as to unsettle the hosts as we did in the first leg,” said Mtawali.

Kaonga said he is aware of the expectation to make a difference today.

“I know what is expected of me. The good thing is that we have been together as a team and we have played a number of build-up matches.

“We willl try to give out our best and we are not panicking. Everyone appears relaxed and rearing to go. I would want to score two or more goals, but it depends on whether we will stick to the game plan and play as a team,” said Kaonga.

Kaonga added that their coaches Mtawali and Gerald Phiri Snr are making them feel relaxed ahead of the game.

“They have advised us to take it easy and stick to the game plan,” he said.

In the first leg, Karabo Phili cancelled the lead in the 21st minute with a classic finish to give the Young Zebras a spring in their step going into today’s game.

Botswana coach Innocent Morapedi was quoted by Mmegi online publication as saying they would try to use home ground advantage to the full.

“It was good that we held our nerve away by forcing a draw. Now, we just have to restrict them from scoring and make sure that we get the goals, that is the plan and we are confident it will work,” said Morapedi.

Playing away might not be easy for the Mtawali boys, but they can take comfort in that Botswana are winless in the last three international matches of all competitions.

Malawi’s best record in the continental competition was achieved in 1999 when they qualified for the finals in Ghana with a squad comprising the likes of Simeon Kapuza, Allan Kamanga, Peter Mgangira and Peter Mponda, who eventually graduated into the Flames.

In other southern Africa games picked randomly, Namibia welcome Mozambique who will bring to Windhoek a 2-1 cushion from the first leg whereas Swaziland have a mountain to climb in Lesotho having lost 0-3 in the first leg. Tanzania welcome Kenya after a barren first leg.

—Additional reporting by Peter Kanjere, News Analyst

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