Flames coach Patrick Mabedi says his charges will go flat out against Tunisia this afternoon in a 2026 World Cup qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Sounding calm, the Malawi National Football Team gaffer said his predominantly youthful troops are determined to punch above their weight and emerge from the trenches bruised, but triumphant against a side ranked 92 places above them.
Buoyed by their 0-1 victory over Liberia’s Lone Star in their opening qualifier away in Monrovia on Friday, Mabedi said: “Everyone is excited, everyone looks energetic and they are all looking forward to this game.
“This game is special because we are playing against a team which on paper are favourites, but [on the pitch], it will be 11 against 11 and we’ll match them pound-for-pound.
“It is a new generation, time to change things.”
It has been a good ride so far for the former Flames captain, who after nine matches is yet to lose in open play.
But he will get a real test of his pedigree this afternoon against a side ranked third on the continent and with six appearances at the global showpiece. They have also won the Africa Cup of Nations once and qualified 20 times.
But Mabedi appeared not moved and with a boyish grin that exposes his trademark gold tooth, insisted that they have come up with a good strategy for the North Africans.
“We had a session to go through some video clips and we have an idea of what to expect from them,” said the coach.
In a video clip posted on Football Association of Malawi Facebook page, the Flames were an oasis of calm as they went through their final paces at the match venue yesterday.
Mabedi is most likely to maintain the team that faced Liberia with scorer of the lone goal, Zambia-based Chifundo Mphasi, tipped to make his way into the starting line-up.
Former Flames coach Kinnah Phiri said he expects the Flames to go flat out for a win.
Said Malawi’s all-time top scorer: “It is always crucial to win home matches and build on them. Winning their first match against Liberia gave them confidence, but this will be a different game altogether.
“As long as they come up with a good strategy, Tunisia are not a difficult side and they can be beaten.
“They [Flames] should take the game to them and a quick goal could unsettle them. We are at home and, therefore, no need to sit back as long as we take a cautious approach. Having said that, I wish the Flames all the best.”
Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri could not be reached for comment yesterday, but the Carthage Eagles’ captain Youssef M’sakini was quoted by Africanews.com as having said that they are not underrating any of their opponents, including the Flames.
The Qatar-based forward said there are no small teams in African football anymore.
“In Africa, there are no longer weak teams. All African players and teams are moving at high level. We must be aware of this,” he said.
Apart from M’sakini, the other player to watch in the Tunisia squad is attacking midfielder Hamza Rafia who plays for Italian Serie A side Lecce.
The last time the two teams met was in 2011 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier which ended goalless. This was after they drew two-all the previous year in the same competition.
Prior to that, the Flames suffered one of their worst defeats when they were clobbered 7-0 by the North Africans in a World Cup qualifier in 2005.
Tunisia top the six-team Group H with three points. They are tied on points with joint second-placed Malawi and Equatorial Guinea, who both won by 1-0 margins against Liberia and Namibia, respectively.