Malawi unfazed by Kenya’s home advantage

It is make or break for national women’s football team this afternoon as they face hosts Kenya’s Harambe Starlets in the return leg of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics second-round qualifier.

Having claimed a 3-2 home win in the first -leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Wednesday, Malawi have but national team coach Abel Mkandawire admits the litmus test comes this foot into the third-round,

Malawi’s Tabitha Chawinga (R) battles for the ball with a Kenyan player

He said they are aware that although the game will be played behind closed doors at Kenyatta Stadium, the Starlets have a home-ground, advantage besides being five steps ahead on Fifa rankings, where Malawi is rated 146.

Mkandawire said he also knows that the Starlets scored two away goals with only one of their six overseas professionals, Sweden-based Corazon Aquino.

Coach David Ouma is set to feature other foreign-based professionals in today’s game.

While Malawi boast of China-based captain Tabitha Chawinga and her Sweden-based younger sister Temwa as overseas professionals, Kenya have Aquino, Teresha Engesha, Mary Kinuthia and Christine Nafula based in Sweden.

Marjolene Nekesa and Esse Akida play for USA and Israel outfits, respectively.

“It is for these reasons that we have agreed to play attacking football right from the first whistle,” Mkandawire said.

“We need to score more goals to frustrate our opponents and increase our chances of making it to the third-round. We are confident that we will achieve that feat,” said Mkandawire.

The coach, whose record shows five wins in six matches, added that they already have experience of winning and avoiding conceding away, having beaten Mozambique 3-0 in Maputo in the second-leg of second-round qualifiers to earn a 14-1 aggregate win.

“We know that it takes skill to get a clean victory away and we are determined to achieve this feat,” he said.

Malawi captain Tabitha Chawinga, who scored a brace on Wednesday, agreed with Mkandawire that they will finish the job this afternoon.

“We failed to score many goals in the first-leg because we gave our opponents room for attack and we easily lost possession. We have rectified our mistakes and we are ready for the showdown,” she said.

Despite that, Kenya’s Ouma believes that their two away goals will be crucial for the Starlets to reach the third-round to face winners between Ghana and Gabon.

“Of course, we lost the first-leg, but the two away goals we got will be our stepping stone to the next round. Malawi cannot beat us in Kenya,” he said.

Mkandawire has travelled to Kenya with the following 20-player squad:

Goalkeepers: Samir Amidu and Mercy Sikelo;

Defenders: Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda, Patricia Nyirenda, Chimwemwe Madise, Maureen Phiri, Emily Jossam and Ruth Nyirongo;

Midfielders: Salome Vinkhumbo, Madina Ngulube, Wezie Mvula, Sabina Thom, Shira Dimba, Zainab Kapanda and Chikondi Gondwe; Strikers: Tabitha, Temwa, Linda Kasenda, Asimenye Simwaka and Mary Chavinda.

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