Newly-appointed Malawi National Football Team, the Flames coach Mario Marian Marinica says he is ready to face any team in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
The Romanian tactician, who took over from redeployed Meck Mwase last week, said in an interview ahead of the 2023 Afcon draw to be held today that the Flames have reached a level where they should be prepared to rub shoulders with the best teams in Africa.
He said: “I think it does not matter too much. Regardless of whom we face, we should believe in ourselves, work very hard, be disciplined and we will have our chances.”
Asked if he is nervous since he faces a challenge of matching what Mwase achieved by leading the Flames to Afcon qualification, Marinica said: “Why should I be nervous? It is a joy of life. Sometimes the draw could turn sour, sometimes it could be okay and other times it could turn to be amazing. But always you should not have regrets if you gave 100 percent.”
The coach said just like at 2021 Afcon finals in Cameroon where the Flames reached the round of 16 with a majority of local players, the Flames could pull surprises even if paired with the continent’s giants such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
Marinica said: “At Afcon, we had 14 local based players out of 28, the most any team had. Our squad transfer market value was 4.5 million euros. That has not changed.”
But soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said Marinica will not have it easy as he takes over from Mwase just a month before the qualifiers and time is not on his side.
He said. “It will not be easy as he thinks. First he needs to build trust with the players following the departure of Mwase.
“It goes without saying that there will be issues of loyalty and trust, more especially among senior players. Some players still feel Mwase should have stayed as coach. Mario has to win the loyalty and trust of these players first. Then he can start planning on the Afcon qualifiers.”
Asked if the Afcon performance can be replicated in the qualifiers, Nyirenda said it is a different ball game for Marinica.
He said: “A tournament is completely different from qualifiers. In qualifiers, you play home and away. There are so many factors that come into play.
“You need to ensure you utilise home ground advantage and ensure that when you play away, you at least take a point, something Malawi has struggled to achieve of late.”
Malawi will be placed in Pot Three of the draw alongside Angola, Comoros Islands, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Togo and Zimbabwe.
CAF announced that the placement of the 48 countries into four pots of 12 was determined by the latest Fifa rankings and not by a ranking of past Afcon performance.
The Flames are 120th in the world and 31st in Africa on Fifa rankings.
The draw will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa at the SuperSport Studios.
According to CAF draw procedure, the first country drawn out goes into Group A, the second in Group B, the third into Group C and so on.
The same procedure will then be repeated with the other pots until the draw is complete.
The top two teams in each group qualify for the final, except the group where hosts Ivory Coast will be competing.
The draw pots:
Pot One: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast (hosts), Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia
Pot Two: Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia
Pot Three: Angola, Comoros Islands. Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Togo, Zimbabwe
Pot Four: Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Liberia, Rwanda, Sao Tome e Principe, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania.