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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Flames looking for first victory in Cairo

Malawi National Football Team will this evening be hoping to collect their first maximum points against Egypt’s Pharaohs at their backyard as they face off in 2023 Group D Africa Cup of Nations qualifier first leg.

There is no love lost between the two sides who clash for the 11th time at Air Defence Stadium in Cairo.

While the Flames have managed to beat the Egyptians twice at home, Malawi has never collected full points at their backyard.

In the 10 meetings between the two sides since 1978, Egypt have won five of the matches while Malawi won three of them and the two other matches ended in deadlock.

Their first encounter was in All Africa Games in 1978 and Egypt triumphed 4-1 at home.

Malawi won the second encounter 2-1 in 1987 at home also in All Africa Games.

The two sides were paired in 1989 Fifa World Cup qualifiers and they drew one-all in first leg before Egypt won 1-0 in the return leg.

The Flames finally registered their first victory over Egypt in Afcon in 1992 at home, beating the Pharaohs 1-0. The two sides would meet again in 1993 and Egypt won 2-0 in Cairo.

They managed to avoid each other for 15 years, before fate paired them again in joint Fifa World Cup and Afcon qualifiers in 2008.

Malawi registered a historic 1-0 victory over the Egyptians at Kamuzu courtesy of substitute Chiukepo Msowoya’s 89th minute strike.

The then six time Afcon champions however, had their revenge two weeks later , beating the Flames 2-0 in the second leg.

The Egyptians twice invited the Flames to Cairo for friendly matches.

In 2009, the two sides drew one-all in an international friendly.

They had another friendly in 2015 which Malawi lost 2-1.

As the two sides meet again after eight years with completely different squads, coach Mario Marinica said his charges are geared for the match after camping in Saudi Arabia for eight days.

He explained: “I could say that we are ready and good to go for the game. Our preparations by large were good.

“The preparations could have been better, but we talked about that before in terms of having the players in camp for more time to increase chances of getting them fitter.

“At the same time, it could have been better if the players played several matches for their clubs. But that’s the situation. We are prepared. We will adapt and we are ready to face a strong squad like Egypt.”

Asked how he will approach the crucial qualifier Marinica said: “Like before with Senegal, Morocco or other teams we faced, we believe as the game starts there are 50-50 chances. We want to defend our 50 percent of the chance to finish the game with good results for us.”

On his part captain John CJ Banda, who was on target in the last encounter when they lost 2-1 to Egypt, said they need nothing short of a draw a or a win.

He said: “Egypt is a good team. But they are beatable. Every player knows how important the game is. We just have to remain focused. If we win or draw here, it means as we go home, psychologically we will have an upper hand.”

Marinica has maintained the majority of the players he took to Guinea for the last 2023 Afcon qualifier which the Flames lost 1-0.

Goalkeeper Charles Thom, defenders Stanley Sanudi, Dennis Chembezi, Anthony Lungu, Gomezgani Chirwa and Lawrence Chaziya; midfielders John CJ Banda, Chimwemwe Idana, Charles Petro, Micium Mhone and Yamikani Chester as well as strikers Frank Gabadinho Mhango, Khuda Myaba and Stain Davie were part of the team that lost in Conakry, Guinea.

But Marinica has added Frank Willard, Patrick Mwaungulu, Miracle Gabeya and Kelvin Kadzinje.

Mwaungulu and Willard are as they are yet to recover from injuries while Sanudi is serving a yellow card suspension.

Mark Fodya, Peter Banda and Brighton Munthali are back in the team after missing the first match against Ethiopia which Malawi won 2-1 and the Guinea trip.

All the teams in Group D have three points having lost and won one each.

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