The Flames are relishing a dream start to their 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign when they face Tanzania’s Taifa Stars today afternoon at National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
The match will kick-off at 3pm local time and will be beamed live on SuperSport channel 207. A win this afternoon means the Flames will have a spring in their step ahead of Sunday’s return leg at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Generally, the Flames are considered poor travellers and in recent times, the best result they have achieved away is a draw and coach Ernest Mtawali and his captain Limbikani Mzava yesterday acknowledged that 90 minutes of sublime majesty will be required for them to beat the hosts.
“It is never easy playing away, there are lots of factors that come into play especially the psychological aspect and we have drummed into the guys that we need to change that mindset and hold on to our nerve.
“The plan is to get an early goal so as to unsettle them and try to keep possession as much as we can,” said Mtawali in an interview from Dar es Salaam yesterday.
The Flames legend also expressed satisfaction with the response during training, saying: “All the players appear in shape. You can see the hunger and determination in their body language.”
He said the Flames were expected to have their final training session yesterday afternoon at the match venue.
“This morning [yesterday], they had to cool off and enjoy refreshing dips in the outdoor pool just for them to relax and after our final training session [yesterday], we will have a theory session to watch the DVD of Tanzania’s [2017 Africa Cup of Nations’ qualifier] against Nigeria which was their last competitive match.
“They have kept faith in their squad and we will analyse their strengths and weaknesses and see how we can handle them. In that match [against Nigeria], they were the better side, but we have a plan for them,” said Mtawali.
On his part, Mzava said: “The mood in camp is electric, everyone is raring to go and we are optimistic of getting a result tomorrow [today]. Tithana nawo ma Taifa [we will deal with the Taifas].”
The last time the Flames faced Taifa Stars was in a friendly match in March this year which ended in a one-all draw and the last time they met in a competitive match was during the 2006 East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup which the Flames won 1-0.
All in all, the two teams have met 43 times—mostly in friendlies—out of which Malawi have won eight, lost 14 and drawn 21. However, the Flames are ranked 101 on Fifa Coca Cola rankings—35 places above Tanzania.
Mtawali is expected to use a 4-3-2-1 formation that will have Mzava and Miracle Gabeya partnering as central defenders with Yamikani Fodya and Stanely Sanudi playing as left and right wing-backs respectively.
Chimango Kayira may provide the shield as a defending midfielder with Gerald Phiri Jnr greasing the wheels of industry at the very centre of the pack. Robin Ngalande is tipped to feature behind Chawanangwa Kawonga.
Tanzania’s coach Charles Mkwasa was yesterday quoted by one of that country’s newspaper, The Citizen, as saying he is happy to have all the players in camp.
“This is good and we can now concentrate on the preparations. We will take the match like any other we played before. All the players are fit to play and we have to seize our home advantage,” he said.
Taifa Stars will bank their hopes on DR Congo-based Mbwana Samatta.