This afternoon’s Africa FIFA World Cup Qualifiers pits Malawi ranked 124 against highly-rated Tunisia who are 32nd in the world, but Flames coach Patrick Mabedi is confident that this will not have a bearing on the outcome of the match to be played at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.
Straight from Liberia where they showed their tactical prowess to beat lowly-ranked The Lone Stars, the Flames are at home against one of Africa’s football heavyweights.
The Eagles of Carthage have appeared in the FIFA World Cup finals on six occasions, including the last edition in Qatar.
Their first finals was in 1978 where they finished ninth and since then between 1998 and 2006, they qualified for three straight World Cup finals and returned to the finals in 2018 after a lengthy absence.
But Mabedi is not moved by such an impressive record, and hopes the spirit of the underdog will prevail and drive his players to provide an upset.
“Everyone is excited, everyone looks energetic and they are all looking forward to this game. This game is special because we are playing against a team which on paper are favourites, but on the pitch, it will be 11 against 11 and we’ll match them pound-for-pound.”
But history does not favour Malawi who have never beaten the Eagles of Carthage in a competitive match.
They only managed a 1-0 victory at home in an international friendly some decades ago in 1989.
The best the Flames have achieved is a draw in the last meeting in 2011 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier which ended goalless.
The previous year Malawi also forced a two-all draw in Africa Cup of Nations qualifier away in Tunis.
Interestingly, one of Malawi’s worst defeat also was also at the hand of the Eagles of Carthage—a 7-0 white-wash in FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2005.
But after chalking the first ever victory in Liberia, Mabedi feels the season of change will continue this afternoon.
“It is a new generation, time to change things,” the tactician said.
Yet the coach does not take away the fact that Tunisia are the favourites in this encounter.
“We had a session to go through some video clips and we have an idea of what to expect from them,” Mabedi explained.
But after all is said and done, it will be the players that the coach will pick for this encounter who can make this dream come true.
Captain John CJ Banda said the players can’t wait for the kick-off.
He said: “We will do everything possible to continue brining smiles on the faces of Malawians. We know football is capable of making people forget all their problems. It is our aim to make that happen.”
Equatorial Guinea, who opened their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Namibia, top the six-team Group H with six points following their second victory over Liberia yesterday.
Tunisia tie with the Flames at three points, but the Eagles of Carthage are second on goal different, having walloped Sao Tome & Principe 4-0 in their first match.
Namibia, Liberia and Sao Tome & Principe are ye to collect a joint in the campaign.
In the other match Sao Tome & Principe host Namibia in Agadir, Morocco.