By Antony Isaiah Jr
Malawi National Football Team are deemed to play with their lungs out as they face Mozambique National Team this afternoon in Maputo if they are to book a visa for them to travel safely to Algeria where the finals for the African Nations Championships next year.
Flames gave themselves an uphill to climb as they failed to use the home ground advantage to beat the Mambas at Bingu National Stadium some seven days ago in a game that swung end to end.
The Flames settled for a 1-all draw but it was the game that they saw it slipping away because they missed a number of scoring opportunities and a goal for Mozambique away from the Capital City, Maputo was very important.
Mambas stole the lead at the packed-Bingu Stadium as their captain Stelio Ernesto outsmarted right back Sanudi before getting rid of Ndholvu and delivered a precise cross which left advancing forward Divrassone to lunge into the coming ball beating Charles Thom in goals who made a return after missing some games.
Flames waked up from the slumber as they had an imminent positive response and attacking midfielder Chimwemwe Idana launched an attack which resulted in Mhone sending Chester on the loose.The Nomads playmaker saw the Mambas goalkeeper anticipating for a cross and did what he never expected, shooting at goal and the ball zoomed on his side to level the scores.
After the game, Marinica said his charges missed chances but was hopeful to beat Mozambique and have their slot secured at the Finals next year in Algeria.
The day has come, Marinica and his charges are eager to break the whammy as Flames are yet to qualify for the Finals of the Local players.
Statistically, Mozambique have had good of results against Malawi as they 12 wins in their records while Malawi have 10 with 10 games ending in stalemate.
The Romanian who replaced Meke Mwase earlier this season says everyone in the camp is focused and he is animated that results shall favour the Red, Green and Black Camp this afternoon.
Marinica while pointing out that Mozambique are a good side says with the improvement of the finishing touches, hard working of the players the door is open for the Flames to fly to Algeria.
He said, “Everyone is focused and believe we can get a result if we convert our chances. Mozambique are a good side and we expect a tough match, but I believe the players will work extremely hard to execute our game plan to perfection.”
Marinica insisted that he has no pressure ahead of the clash considering that they will be playing away in front of an expected intimidating atmsphere.
“I have said it before that I don’t believe in pressure, to me it doesn’t exist and I always tell my players to be calm because pressure is for those who have the responsibility of putting food on the table for their families and not football,” said Marinica.
Captain Stanley Sanudi said the boys are eager to go through the next round and the key will be not to allow their opponents settle down.
“Of course, it’s always tricky playing away, but while we’ll have to be cautious at the back, we’ll also have to be offensive because it’s a must win game.
“That said, we are ready for the match. It won’t be easy, but we will fight all the way.”
Mozambique coach Chiquinho Conde said playing at home gives them an edge.
He said: “Getting a point away was vital and we plan to build on that. If we could get an early goal, it could unsettle them [Flames], so that will be our primary goal.”
Malawi qualified for the last round without kicking a ball following the disqualification of Zimbabwe’s Warriors by CAF while the Mambas booted out Zambia’s Chipolopolo 1-0 on goal aggregate.
What today’s result will mean for both Malawi and Marinica
Having participated in the tournament for several times without booking a ticket for the final games, the visitory will give the Flames their first appearance at the Finals of the tournament slated for next year in Algeria.
In 2019, they fell short after a 1-all draw against eSwatini at home before a goalless draw away from home.
Flames are aware of the value of an away goal that Mozambique got at Bingu National after the defence got paralysed.
As for Marinica, he has two missions going into this game. He has to take Flames to the finals for his betterment and the betterment of the Malawians.
Helping the Flames to qualify for the CHAN will bring his book into the history and also saving his job as the Flames Coach.
Marinica signed a three-year contract with the Football Association of Malawi and among other targets in the contract were to win the Cosafa Cup, qualify for the Finals of the African Nations Championships and African Cup of Nations.
He has already seen the Cosafa Cup target slipping away after poor results in South Africa despite being the only team to take the Stars and old-aged players at the tournament and the chance to qualify for the African Cup of Nations looks skinny as Egypt, Guinea and Ethiopia who are good tactically, physically better than us stand on their way.
Getting one target over the line will maybe give the bosses at Mpira Village to have mercy on him.
Players carrying Malawians’ hope
There was apprehension in Malawians after learning that the hero of the first leg, Yamikani Chester was a doubt after sustaining injury in the first game played at Bingu National Stadium.
The player has recovered well and joined his teammates some days ago and he is among the squad members available for selection today.
His combination with the attacking midfielder, Chimwemwe Idana looks very promising and they can give headache to the opponents hence easing job for the blunt Strikers to score.
Stanley Sanudi though not at his best in the latest Flames outings, his experience will be needed today as it is a do or die game.
In a big game, you need big players and Chiukepo is one of them. He might not have that energy to play a high-pressing football but he can convert the half chance that Flames might create.
The game starts at 1500hrs CAT