Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
BLANTYRE--It will be a case of spirit versus quality when the Malawi national football team, the Flames, line up against Ghana’s Black Stars in the 2013 Africa Cup of national qualifier in the capital Lilongwe on Saturday.
The Black Stars hold a 2-0 advantage after winning the first leg on home soil in Accra three weeks ago.
The Flames will line up with a team comprising locally based players, beefed up with a handful from South African leagues, with none from outside the African continent. These are hardly world class players. They are rough diamonds who can only achieve success through sticking together and playing as a team.
Ghana, on the other hand, are expected to line up a team with a galaxy of stars plying their trade in top European leagues. If they were to fail to gain a place at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, it would be considered a huge upset.
This match will be a typical David-Goliath affair, with the balance heavily tipped in favour of the visiting team. Yet Malawi coach, Kinnah Phiri, is upbeat about his side’s chances.
"The spirits are high," he said Thursday. "We’ll be playing at home in familiar surroundings while our opponents (who only arrive in Malawi on Friday evening) will not have acclimatised fully by the time of kick-off."
The Malawi coach will be encouraged by performances his charges have put up against some of the most respected teams on the continent. In the past few years, Africa football powerhouses such as Egypt, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, DRC and Nigeria have all failed to beat the Flames on home soil.
If Malawi shows the spirit they have shown in the past, and Ghana have an off day – which is not impossible in football - Malawi football fans will be celebrating the third participation at AFCON following on qualifications of 1984 in Ivory Coast and 2010 in Angola.
Unthinkable, one might say, but the unthinkable does happen in football.
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