Malawi will face a tough challenge in their quest to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations when they play away to Benin in a second round, first leg tie on Sunday.
The match at the Stade de l’Amitie in Coutonou is set for a 17:00 CAT kick-off.
Benin cruised into this stage of the qualifiers thanks to a 4-0 aggregate win over minnows Sao Tome and Principe. English-based striker Stephane Sessegnon scored three of his side’s four goals.
The Squirrels have appeared in the Nations Cup three times (2004, 2008 and 2010) and French coach Didier Ollé-Nicolle will be targeting a fourth showing at Africa’s continental showpiece. However, he must first make the most of home advantage against the Southern Africans ahead of what will surely be a testing return match in Blantyre in early August.
Malawi sneaked past Chad in the previous round, winning the tie on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw. The Flames won the home leg 2-0 thanks to a brace from South African-based striker Frank Mhango, who also scored the crucial away goal in their 3-1 defeat in the return leg in N’Djamena.
Coach Young Chimodzi named a 20-man squad for the trip to Benin this past weekend, with 12 locally-based players joining eight foreign-based professionals, one of whom is the dangerous Mhango.
The Flames last appeared at the Afcon finals in 2010 where they finished bottom of Group A behind Angola, Algeria and Mali. Their only other qualification was in 1984.
The winner of this tie will move into Group B alongside Mali, Algeria and Ethiopia. Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayi will take charge of the match on Sunday evening.