Malawi head to Cameroon with the hope of improving from their last showing at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations in the 2010 edition. The Flames finished bottom of their group then with a win and two defeats.
Kicking off their third AFCON campaign against Guinea on Monday 10 January, the Flames go into the 33rd edition of the tournament at the back of a confidence boosting 2-1 friendly match victory over Comoros, which formed part of their 10-day training camp in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to using the Middle East conditions to acclimatise to humid environments expected in Bafoussam, where they will be based for the group stage, the pre-tournament camp was important for Meck Mwase’s charges who have a massive task ahead of them when facing Guinea and Zimbabwe, before coming up against one of the tournament favourites Senegal to conclude their Group B campaign.
While they may not have the luxury of boasting big name players in the squad, Malawi’s relentless fighting spirit that secured them their ticket to Cameroon will count for something give when coming up against their more fancied Group B opponents.
Orlando Pirates dangerman, Gabadinho Mhango is expected to be the Flames’ talisman in leading their attack. However, his lack of game time this season may be a concern for the 29-year-old. Getting the opener against Comoros as well as setting up a perfect finish for his striking partner, Khuda Muyaba certainly injects Mhango with a much-needed confidence boost ahead of the three tough assignments that awaits him and his teammates.
Malawi’s hopes will be heavily placed on the shoulders of the striking trio comprising of forwards that are plying their trade in South Africa, with Mhango at Pirates, Muyaba at Polokwane City and Richard Mbulu at Baroka FC.
A sound and resolute defence will also be the key when facing a dangerous Guinea side that boasts an array of talent that is coupled with players who have acquired AFCON experience such as skipper Naby Keita and midfielder and forward Sory Kaba.
Malawi will be unfortunate to be without the high-flying winger, Schumacher Kuwali who tore his thigh muscle in Saudi Arabi during the camp.
Another absentee is Gerald Phiri Jnr who only made the reserves side of the team.
Malawi Group B Fixtures:
Guinea vs Malawi – 10 January
Malawi vs Zimbabwe – 14 January
Malawi vs Senegal – 18 January