FAM president Walter Nyamilandu and interim coach Marian Mario Marinica have challenged the Flames to reach the knockout stages of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals for the first time.

Nyamilandu made the remarks when he addressed the players during the team’s first meeting at La Valle de Bana Hotel in Cameroon ahead of Sunday’s kick off.

Marinica with his charges in Saudi Arabia

This is the Flames’ third appearance and in the previous outings, they bowed out in the group stages.

Nyamilandu dared the players that this year’s tournament presents them an opportunity to leave a mark on Malawi’s football history.

He said: “We must aim at making a record. Last time in 2010, we went to Angola and beat the tournament’s favourites Algeria.

“But we lost the other two matches and bowed out.  After beating Algeria, there were huge celebrations in Malawi and up to now Malawians still remember that match.

“In 1984, during our maiden appearance we drew 2-2 against one of the tournament’s favourites, Nigeria, and one of our stars Cliffton Msiya scored the goal of the tournament in that match. People still remember that.

“What will Malawians remember you for? When we leave this tournament will Malawians remember you for good things or bad things? Malawi should not remember you for losing 10-0 or scoring own goals or for indiscipline. We must leave a mark here by qualifying for the knockout stages. You must become the first generation in our history to go past the group stages.

“This is a unique team. You qualified nice and clean with good results and you can do more than what others did before. Nothing is impossible.

“We need positive minds and approach in everything that we will be doing here for us to get results. We need to change our way of doing things and adopt the new approach. We need to have a big heart to go an extra mile and we will go far in this tournament.”

Nyamilandu urged the team to be united, saying they can only achieve results if they work as a group.

“We will win as a team. Let’s love each other. We are all one and should work as a unit. Togetherness took us this far and we must remain united. There will be surprises here. Things will not be smooth, but we must stand together and focus on the war at hand,” he said.

In a separate interview, Marinica challenged the Flames to show that they deserve to play in higher leagues.

He said: “I hope the players will stand up and be counted. I hope they will work hard and showcase their skills and strengths to a wider audience so that they are appreciated. 

“It is their lifetime opportunity to make an impression and register fantastic results.”

The Flames are in Group B alongside Guinea, Zimbabwe and Senegal and will begin their Afcon campaign against Guinea’s Syli Nationale  on Monday January 10, before facing Zimbabwe’s Warriors on January 14.

The Flames’ final group match will be against Senegal’s Teranga Lions on January 18.

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