Malawi Queens are determined to shake off their underdog status and fight every inch of the way when they face hosts and defending champions England in their 2022 Commonwealth Games opening Group match in Birmingham this afternoon.
The odds are tipped in Vitality Roses favour going into this showdown, but Queens’ star shooter Mwawi Kumwenda said in an interview that they are prepared to fight every inch of the way.
Malawi are ranked seventh in the world, four places below England who will be buoyed by home advantage.
But the Australia-based gangly player said that is no guarantee that the hosts will come out triumphant.
She said: “They are a better side in terms of class and stature, but that matters little when you have the spirit and determination.
“I am not saying we are going to win, but shouldn’t be written off completely.
“Anything is possible, the girls are in high spirits and let’s hope for the best.”
Queens coach Peace Chawinga-Kaluwa was not available for comment yesterday, but earlier in the week she was quoted by MBC Radio 2 as having said preparations are going on well.
Apart from Kumwenda, the Queens have two other players in shooter Joyce Mvula and goalkeeper Towera Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda who play in top leagues oversea.
Until the just-ended season, Mvula was starring for UK Vitality Superleague side Manchester Thunder and led them to the title before joining New Zealand top-flight netball league side Central Pulse while Vinkhumbo-Nyirenda plays for Strathclyde Sirens.
The two should be conversant with their opponents and provide the Queens with tips on how to contain the Roses.
While battle-hardened goal defender Carol Mtukule-Ngwira, who has been a key member of the squad for over 15 years, should provide the guidance.
On the other hand, England coach Jess Thirlby has backed her outfit to thrive under the white-hot pressure of a home tournament.
“For us to be afforded the chance to have another big tournament on home soil so soon, probably will never happen again in our lifetimes,” she told SkySports.com.
“It’s really important to embrace it. That’s easy to say, but I really trust in this group, that they will use that to build energy rather than for it to defeat them or feel weighty.
“We’re quite a good group at celebrating and building off the energy of our fanbase. That’s a real pleasure and a joy.”
Just like the Queens, England have an experienced squad led by captain Natalie Metcalf and vice-captain Jo Harten.
With six members of the 2018 Commonwealth Games triumphant side returning to the 12-strong squad, England have prioritised experience in their quest for back-to-back glory.
The 37-year-old Geva Mentor and 38-year-old Jade Clarke together account for more than a third of England’s 925 caps, which make the Roses one of the most tested teams at the Games.
Thirlby was further quoted as having said that to guarantee the smoothest road to the gold-medal match, England must finish on top of the group.
“To do that will involve navigating past some tricky teams, namely Malawi and Uganda who both possess formidable shooting talent, but the major task will be defeating New Zealand,” she said.
England and Malawi last faced each other at the 2018 Games where the Roses won 74-49 in Queensland Australia.
Tomorrow, the Queens face Northern Ireland in their second match before taking on New Zealand on Monday.