Flames to start 2026 World Cup campaign in November

* As caretaker coach Mabedi gets down to work against Ethiopia in AFCON qualifier

* Malawi will know their opponents for the campaign on July 12, 2023 at the official draw in Cotonou, Benin


The 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign will begin in November after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) released a road map to identify Africa’s representative to the 48-team showdown.


At its executive committee meeting held on Thursday in Algeria, CAF resolved that all the 54 Africa countries will participate in the competition’s group stages which will have nine groups of six teams each — with the top team will automatically qualify for the World Cup.

Malawi will know their opponents for the campaign on July 12, 2023  when the official draw will be held in Cotonou, Benin.

“The new format has been adapted in line with FIFA’s expanded FIFA World Cup format and will involve all the 54 member associations of CAF who will be divided into nine groups,” reads part of the communique from CAF.

“Winners of each group will automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026. The four best runners-up (from the groups) will play in a CAF play-off tournament [whose] winner will play in the FIFA play-off.”

The first two matches will take place during the November 13-21, 2023 FIFA international match window with Match Day 3 and 4 set for June 3-11, 2024.

The qualifiers will run until November 2025 meaning that the teams will play at least 10 matches.


Meanwhile, newly-appointed Flames caretaker coach, Patrick Mabedi on Friday morning got down to work when he named a 30-member provisional squad of local-based players to start preparations for next month’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia in Mozambique on June 20.

Mabedi has included 11 new faces in the squad namely Tigers goalkeeper Innocent Nyasulu, Blue Eagles defenders Macdonald Lameck and Jacob Robert, Civil Service United’s Timothy Silwimba, Mighty Tigers’ Kelvin Banda and Bangwe All Stars midfielders Chikumbutso Salima and Robert Saizi.

Others are Civil Service United’s midfielder Lloyd Aaron, Silver Strikers’ Chikondi Kamanga as we as strikers Alfred Sapanga and Clement Nyondo from Red Lions and Dedza Dynamos respectively.

The former Flames captain has also named Under-17 national football team coach DeKlerk Msakakuona as his 1st assistant with Blue Eagles’ Eliya Kananji as second assistant.

Victor Mphande has been maintained as goalkeepers’ trainer while Peter Mgangira is the new physical fitness trainer with Dexter Killi as physiotherapist.

Mabedi has included Aubrey Nankhuni and Chancy Gondwe as technical adviser and Chaplain respectively while Levison Mwale and Lawrence Waya have been retained as team doctor and team analyst respectively.

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At a conference on Friday, Mabedi said the first phase of the team’s camp will be done for three days per week after which the players will be released on Wednesday afternoon to concentrate on their teams’ weekend assignment.

He added that the players have been selected based on their current form and performance in the Super League matches.

Mabedi is expected to name the list of foreign based players for the assignment a week before the June international window ahead of the assignment.

The full squad:

Goalkeepers: Brighton Munthali (Blue Eagles), William Thole (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Innocent Nyasulu (Mighty Tigers), Clever Mkungula (Nyasa Big Bullets);

Defenders: Stanley Sanudi (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Mark Fodya (Silver Strikers), Macdonald Lameck (Blue Eagles), Timothy Silwimba (Civil Service United), Jacob Robert (Blue Eagles), Nickson Mwase (Silver Strikers), Lawrence Chaziya (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Kelvin Banda (Mighty Tigers), Blessings Mpokera (Nyasa Big Bullets), Paul Ndhlovu (MAFCO);

Midfielders: Chikumbutso Salima (Bangwe All Stars), Misheck Botoman (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Alick Lungu (Nyasa Big Bullets), Robert Saizi (Bangwe All Stars), Lanjesi Nkhoma (Nyasa Big Bullets), Frank Willard (Nyasa Big Bullets), Chawanangwa Gumbo (Nyasa Big Bullets), Lloyd Aaron (Civil Service United), Chimwemwe Idana (Silver Strikers), Chikondi Kamanga (Silver Strikers), Patrick Macheso (Silver Strikers);

Strikers: Christopher Kumwembe (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Gaddie Chirwa (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers), Mphatso Kamanga (Mighty Mukuru Wanderers, (Alfred Sapanga (Red Lions), Clement Nyondo (Dedza Dynamos).