Although the Flames are out of 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), interim coach Patrick Mabedi says this afternoon’s last Group D qualifier against Guinea’s Syli Nationale at Bingu National Stadium is not just an academic one for Malawi as there is more at stake.
Straight from the 2023 COSAFA Cup where the Flames comprising predominantly local players put up a spirited performance to finish fourth, Mabedi who faces assessment after the match says it gives him a chance to showcase the team’s progress in front of its diehards.
The tactician said: “I always say every game is important. We are looking forward to continue where we left at COSAFA Cup and we also we are looking to do better and make our fans happy.
“We want to win the game. The match is important firstly, for continuity and secondly, pride is at stake and thirdly, our supporters’ expectation is that we should win. we want to give them what they expect.”
The former Kaizer chiefs assistant coach said the match will also give him an opportunity to try new combinations after naming six uncapped players in his final squad, namely, defenders Yamikani Mologeni and Tatenda M’balaka of Silver Strikers, midfielders Chikondi Kamanga also from Silver, Ekwendeni Hammers’ Wongani Lungu and Wisdom Mpinganjira of Mighty Mukuru Wanderers as well as striker Adiel Kaduya of Silver.
The up and coming players are expected to gel with usual campaigners included in the squad namely Mozambique-based duo of captain John ‘CJ’ Banda and striker Richard Mbulu, South Africa-based goalkeeper Brighton Munthali and forward Chawanangwa Kaonga, defenders Stanley Sanudi, Lawrence Chaziya and Dennis Chembezi, winger Peter Banda and midfielder Francisco Madinga.
“We look forward to a good display and do our best to win the game. We also want to have a different approach and use this game to try certain combinations,” he said.
On his part, Flames captain CJ Banda said they would love to finish on high note.
He said: “As you know we will now qualify even if we win, but there is something behind the game—there is a lot at stake.
“After starting on high note when we beat Ethiopia here at Bingu National Stadium, our aim is to finish on a high note as well with a win against Guinea.
“Again the match will give the young players a chance to have a feel of AFCON qualifiers. As you know, COSAFA Cup and Afcon are different.”
The two sides have this far played each other seven times with Guinea winning five while Malawi have only won once, a 2-1 joint World Cup and Afcon qualifier in September 2009. The other ended in a stalemate.
Guinea, who already qualified for the Ivory Coast finals will be without some key players including their captain Naiby Keita.
In the other group’s match played on Friday, Egypt beat Ethiopia 1-0 to finish at 15 points.
Guinea are second with nine points while the Flames are third although they tie with bottom placed Ethiopia at four points.