The Malawi Flames hope of making it to the Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) knockout stage can be revived as they take on Zimbabwe’s Warriors in their second Group B match at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium in Limbe, Cameroon.

It is a match that pits two Cosafa region sides that have played each other several times in various competitions.

But this is a first at Afcon finals and a tricky one since both are eyeing advancing to the next round in the group so that they might stand a chance to make it to the knockout stage.

Both teams are coming from similar circumstances, Malawi lying 129th on Fifa tankings dominated their opening match against Guinea but went on to lose 1-0.

Gabadinho Mhango (L) in action against Zimbabwe in a previous match

 Zimbabwe are 121st on Fifa rankings, but they managed  to hold highly rated Senegal for 90 minutes only to concede a penalty in added time.

The second group match is therefore a swim or sink encounter that both sides would not want to drop points.

Morale is high in Flames camp following the return of 13 players who missed the opening match because they were in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19.

Orlando Pirates striker Frank Gabadinho Mhango, most capped player Mighty Wanderers right back Stanley Sanudi, Ethiopia-based Saint George attacker Robin Ngalande and Moldova-based Charles Petro return to the squad.

Workhorse defending midfielder Red Lions’ Chikoti Chirwa, Silver Strikers left back Mark Fodya, Civo United full back Lawrence Chaziya and Wanderers defender Peter Cholopi also return to the squad.

Five reserve players Gerald Phiri Jnr, Brighton Munthali, Paul Ndlovu, Dan Chimbalanga and Stain Davie are also available.

With these 13 players plus Charles Thom, William Thole, Ernest Kakhobwe, Gomezgani Chirwa, Limbikani Mzava, Dennis Chembezi, Chimwemwe Idana, John Banda, Peter Banda, Francisco Madinga, Micium Mhone, Yamikani Chester, Richard Mbulu, Zebron Kalima and Khuda Muyaba who featured in the opening game, Malawi is spoiled of options.

But assistant coach Meck Mwase takes charge of the Flames again since head of technical panel Mario Marian Marinica is still in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 again.

Mwase said the return of the 13 players is a big boost for the team which now has depth.

He said: “We definitely needed these players. We now are spoiled for choice.”

But the coach said he expects a tough opponent in Zimbabwe’s Warriors.

He said: “Just like us they are on a mission to make it to the next round. The fact that they also lost their opening match means they will come hard on us. But we have played them before and we are ready for them.”

In the opening match, Malawi created plenty of scoring opportunities but terrible finishing cost them the game.

Mwase said they had worked on the shortfalls.

He said: “We have been working on finishing for the past few days. We don’t want to waste such scoring opportunities again because it will haunt us.”

Flames captain Mzava said the players were still bitter having failed to win the opening match despite dominating.

He said: “We want to make things right. We need to win this one at all cost.”

Midfielder Peter Banda who had a grand game against Guinea also stressed the need to beat Zimbabwe. He said: “Playing good and attractive football doesn’t count if you don’t win matches.”

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