The Flames begin their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification campaign on Saturday when they host the Warriors of Zimbabwe in a Group L encounter scheduled for Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Flames captain Joseph Kamwendo and coach Young Chimodzi have said there is need to make use of home ground advantage and start the campaign on a positive note.
Chimodzi also said the Flames will have no excuse if they slip up in their opening encounter after undergoing thorough preparations.
“It will be good if we start with a win because it will give us confidence going into the second-round of games.
“We have had very good preparations and the ball is now in our court and if things do not go our way, we’ll not have anyone to blame but ourselves,” said Chimodzi.
The Flames mentor also said he expects his charges to rise to the occasion and play according to game plan.
“Our main problem has been failing to maintain the level of concentration, but we have worked on that and there should be an improvement on Saturday,” said Chimodzi.
Captain Joseph Kamwendo said the Flames will have to fight for an early goal so as to unsettle the Zimbabweans.
“Despite the problems that the Zimbabwe team has gone through, it will not be an easy match and we will have to fight for an early goal and never allow them to settle down,” said Kamwendo.
He also said the morale in camp is high and urged the fans to fill the stadium to capacity.
“As I always say, the fans are our 12th player, they give us that extra push and without them, we are nothing. In fact, we play for them. This is their team so let them make noise from the stands and we will reciprocate on the pitch,” he said.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu also called on the fans to create an intimidating atmosphere for the visiting team.
“Let them know that they are in a different cathedral, a different arena. We should support our team from start to finish, even when the chips are down,” said Nyamilandu.
Big goaltender McDonald Harawa is set to guard the posts with Limbikani Mzava, John Lanjesi, Harry Nyirenda and Yamikani Fodya forming the rearguard while Joseph Kamwendo, Chimango Kaira, John Banda and Mecium Mhone will man the engine room with Esau Kanyenda and either Atusaye Nyondo or Robin Ngalande partnering upfront.
Despite the players having to assemble at very short notice and training just for a day, coach Callisto Pasuwa was quoted by the Zimbabwe media as saying he was happy with the “players’ attitude and commitment’’.
“I am happy with the spirit that these players have shown. I have also held a long discussion with them and I told them of the financial problems that are there and that we have to contend with. For now all we want to do is go out there and give it our best.
“I have been preaching nearly every day that preparations should be adequate. The preparations count most and if we prepare well, then we have chance of getting good results. We could have been beaten Malawi in previous matches but again we need to do better in our preparations so that we get results this time.
“At the present moment we have a tendency of grinding results, without even training. We are saying we are going out again to get a result without proper preparations and it’s bad for Zimbabwean football,” a confident Pasuwa told The Herald.
“[However], In football you normally play the way you would have prepared,” Pasuwa added.
He said since time was fast approaching his emphasis was now on what they need to do to overcome the Flames.
The Warriors will bank their hopes on Belgium-based ‘Smiling Assasin’—Knowledge Msusona. Their other key players include captain Willard Katsande, Khama Billiat, Kudakwashe Mahachi and Cuthbert Malajila.
The Flames are ranked 95th on Fifa Coca Cola World rankings, 24 places above the Warriors. The last time the two teams met was in march last year in a friendly match at Kamuzu Stadium and the Warriors triumphed 4-1.