For what seems a plunge into an unknown territory, the Flames travel to Benin for a dance with The Squirrels at the Stade de l’Amitie on the weekend of July 18.
So, who are Benin in the fabric of Africa football that the Flames should worry going into the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying second round, first leg?
Several football websites, including www.cafonline.com, give a clue which coach Young Chimodzi may wish to seriously to study about the 87th ranked opposition, which boast three Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) appearances against two for Malawi.
“Honestly, I do not remember us playing Benin. If we did, it must have been long, long time ago. It is a challenge preparing for an opposition you are unfamiliar with. But what is critical is for us to be at our best and that is what we will try to do,” Chimodzi admitted yesterday.
Benin have an array of foreign-based players across Africa, Europe and Asia, but most Malawian fans should identify them more with their diminutive playmaker Stephane Sessegnon who wears a punk haircut
The attacking midfielder, who can also play as a false striker, is a familiar face of the Barclays English Premiership where he plays for West Bromwich Albion, having recently relocated from Sunderland at five million sterling pounds.
Sessegnon, who was good enough for a career at Paris Saint Germain, is largely the reason Benin advanced to the stage they are meeting Flames. His goals saw off Sao Tome in the first-round whereas Malawi rode on the back of Frank Gabadinho Mhango’s goals to dispatch Chad.
Speedy, bulky and boasting massive awareness of attacking width in the flanks, Benin are coached by 52-year-old Frenchman Didier Olle-Nicole.
They are yet to concede in their last two games. In recent past six games of all competitions, Benin have won three games, lost twice and drawn once. Malawi has under Chimodzi, won once, drawn twice and lost thrice in all competitions.
Chimodzi attributed this to rebuilding having changed his squad every game and handed debuts to Francis Mlimbika, McDonald Harawa, Kelvin Hanganda and Bashir Maunde, adding “we now have to improve the quality of play itself.”
Like the Flames, Benin too last appeared at the Nations Cup final in Angola. Until 1975 they were called Dahomey when they registered their worst 10-1 loss to Nigeria in 1959 while counting on a whipping 7-0 of Mauritania as their best ever result.