The Flames have said they are ready to revive their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign when they face Swaziland’s Sihlangu Semnikati on Sunday at Somhlolo Stadium in Lobumba, Swaziland.
Head coach Ernest Mtawali and captain Limbikani Mzava have said after a five-day camping in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa, they are set for the battle.
Said Mtawali: “The guys are looking good, they are in shape and raring to go.
“The camping we have had in South Africa has helped us a lot in terms of gelling the players and trying different combinations and game formation and I believe we are ready.”
Mzava said it is a must-win encounter for the Flames if they are to keep their qualification hopes nice on the boil
“We are down for now, but we are still in there. If we win on Sunday, then we will be back in contention.
“The morale in camp is very high and everyone is looking at giving out their utmost best. The new players who have come through have also been impressive,” said Mzava.
This will be the first official match for Mtawali and his assistant Nsanzurwimo Ramadhan since they took over the mantle.
Mtawali has included five uncapped players in the squad, namely goalkeeper Brightone Munthali, defender Wonder Jelemani, midfielder Yamikani Chester and strikers Chawanangwa Kawonga and Manase Chiyesa.
Swaziland national football team coach Harries Bulunga spoke tough ahead of the showdown earlier this week, declaring that the stadium will be a war zone come Sunday.
“Preparations are, so far, going well and the players are responding positively to my training methods. We are ready for the match and I am sure we will win the match.” Bulunga was quoted as saying.
“We are not intimidated by their South African-based players. It will be 11 against 11 in the field of play and we will match them pound for pound in all the departments.”
However, Mtawali played down his counterpart’s tough talk describing it as mind games.
“You would expect such talk from a coach who is playing at home. He can say whatever he feels like saying, but our focus is firmly on our own preparations,” said Mtawali.
The Flames anchor Group L alongside Guinea having lost their opening games to Zimbabwe’s Warriors and Swaziland by 2-1 margins respectively.
Malawi are ranked 96th in the world, 39 places above the Swazis.
Mtawali is likely to feature Mzava, John Lanjesi, Stanely Sanudi and Yamikani Fodya in defence, experienced Robert Ng’ambi, Chimango Kayira, Gerald Phiri Jnr in central midfield with Micium Mhone and John Banda operating from the flanks while either Chawanangwa Kawonga or Robin Ngalande will feature upfront.
Sunday’s match kicks off at 3pm.