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AFCON

Malawi and Senegal have everything to fight for

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Hope is still in the air for both Malawi and Senegal as they enter the Group B final matchday in Bafoussam this Tuesday.

Malawi have three points to their name, one shy of Senegal who share top spot with Guinea. Zimbabwe trail the group pointless.

Malawi Flames were firing on all cylinders in their 2-1 win over Zimbabwe.

Gabadinho Mhango scored twice to give Malawi a famous win and became the first Malawi player to score a brace at the Africa Cup of Nations. If he scores against Senegal, Mhango will become Malawi’s top goal-scorer in their history in the competition.

A point might be enough for Malawi to record a historical place in the second round for the first time in their history. But it would be a tough mission against a highly rated Senegal side.

According to the coach, Meck Mwase, Malawi plans to finish the group stage on a winning note.

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“Even though we know our opponents are tough, this gives us motivation to even work harder. I told my players they have got an opportunity to make history.

“We have all seen the many surprises so far in the tournament, and our opponents must be prepared as it will not be a smooth ride. We only have one player missing and that is our captain, but we have equally good players that can replace him as we fight to qualify.”

John Banda , a Malawi midfielder added: “Senegal look good on paper, but they have to know our game against them will be the biggest game of our lives. We believe we can beat them even though they are the favourites. We are motivated by surprises in the tournament, and we believe this is our golden opportunity every Malawian is waiting for.

“It is a fact Senegal has big stars, but our game plan is to surprise them and qualify. It may look like a huge task, but we are ready for the challenge ahead.”

The Lions of Teranga were beaten finalists in the last AFCON in Egypt three years ago but are well fancied to go one better this time around, with a star-studded squad. 

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Aliou Cisse will be hoping to see a much more potence in attack after drawing blanks in their match against Guinea. 

The Teranga Lions have not scored a goal in open play so far in the tournament and will look to set the records straight when they face Malawi.

A late Sadio Mane penalty in stoppage time ensured victory over Zimbabwe, before Senegal managed only a draw in their second game against Guinea.

Aliou Cisse  remarks: “We have confidence going into the game, but it’s important to respect Malawi. We are happy that all our players are available which gives us more options. All Senegalese are watching us and it’s our role to give them hope by winning.

“Our ambitions are intact. We are playing against a motivated side that want to go for a special win.”

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He is supported by defender, Abdou Diallo. “We have to acknowledge we are equally motivated like our opponents as we are taking the game with all the seriousness it deserves. As players we know the importance of this game. We have vowed to go all out for a win in what should be an exciting encounter.

“The coach has helped us work on our past mistakes. Having all our players back in the team gives us motivation to face challenges.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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