BAFOUSSAM. — Malawi will battle it out with Senegal in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group B match at the Stade Omnisports de Bafoussam in Bafoussam, Cameroon, today.
Kick-off is at 6pm.
The Flames claimed their second ever win in the AFCON finals when they defeated Zimbabwe 2-1 in their second Group B match on Friday night and Malawi are now placed third on the group standings — a point behind leaders, Guinea, who play Zimbabwe in the other match at the same time today.
The victory boosted Malawi’s ambitions of reaching the knock-out phase as a win over Senegal will see them advance to the Last 16.
A draw could also be enough to see the Flames reach the Last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Frank “Gabadinho’’ Mhango, the Malawi striker, explained that teamwork and team spirit were key to their victory over the Warriors of Zimbabwe and he stated that they will use the same approach against Senegal.
Mhango says Malawi must believe they can get something from their final African Cup of Nations Group B clash against Senegal today, where a point would likely secure a second round berth.
Malawi currently sit in third place in their Cup of Nations pool, with the top two teams automatically through to the knock-out stages and the four best third-placed sides among the six pools also advancing.
Mhango scored a brace as the side came from behind to claim a deserved 2-1 win over Zimbabwe in their last game, just a second ever victory at the Cup of Nations, which in turn eliminated their COSAFA rivals from the competition.
A draw today would give Malawi a good chance of being among the best third-place finishers, and with Senegal having yet to hit their straps in the competition, Mhango claims the Flames must believe they can do something special.
“It’s a big game, they look good on paper because there are big stars there for Senegal. People can say we must fear them, but at the end of the day it is 90 minutes and it will be determined on the field of play,” Mhango says.
“People did doubt us and see us as underdogs, but we have got a big heart and I can see everyone on the team wants to play that game and show that we can be better than them.”
Mhango, who plays for Orlando Pirates, says the Malawi players are not just fighting for a place in the next round, but also their careers as professional footballers, with a good showing at this tournament in Cameroon likely to open doors for several of the squad.
“My ambition is to see Malawian players, and I included as well, to go and play overseas (in Europe) because this is the only way we can show our talent. We have players who deserve to be overseas.
“I think after this tournament there will be four or five players who will play overseas from the squad, I am sure of it. That is the thing I have been telling the team. Everyone is watching this tournament.
“They must fight, not just to win, but also to show a good performance.”
Meanwhile, Senegal’s ambitions of progressing to the knock-out phase are still on track despite drawing 0-0 with their West African rivals, Guinea, in their second Group B match on Friday.
The Lions of Teranga, who are one of the tournament favourites, are placed second on the group standings — level on points with Guinea, and a victory over Malawi will earn them a place in the Last 16.
Aliou Cisse, the Senegal head coach, was satisfied with a stalemaate against Guinea and he feels that they can build from the draw as they take aim at Malawi.
“I am satisfied with the draw today against Guinea as we came back stronger in the second half, unlike the first half where we were not perfect,” Cisse told CAF Online.
“Guinea played a perfect game and we have to commend them but now we go back and work to ensure we get three points from our next opponents Malawi.
“The competition has good teams and even though many people expect us to win all games our ambitions remain the same and we want to build from the draw.”
The last meeting between Malawi and Senegal was on July 14, 2021.
Senegal secured a 2-1 win over Malawi in the 2021 COSAFA Cup match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in South Africa.