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Oct 8, 2021 at 2pm UK
Ivory CoastIvory Coast

Banda (39'), Mbulu (87')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Gradel (36'), Sangare (85'), Boga (90+5')
Kessie (79'), Aurier (90+1')

Preview: Malawi vs. Ivory Coast - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Malawi vs. Ivory Coast - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's World Cup Qualifying - Africa clash between Malawi and Ivory Coast, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Qualifying for World Cup 2022 in the African region will continue this week as Malawi host the Ivory Coast in a critical encounter at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday.

The Elephants lead Group D with four points after two matches, but the Malawians are right on their tail, just a point back following their 1-0 win over Mozambique last month.

Match preview

After enduring a difficult two-leg affair in the opening round of qualifying versus Botswana, winning only thanks to a late penalty in the second match 1-0, Malawi have a chance to put themselves in a much better position to make it to the next round with a win over the Ivory Coast.

They began this stage with a 2-0 defeat to Cameroon, conceding twice in the opening 22 minutes in a dominant performance by the Indomitable Lions, but they were able to follow that up with a solid performance over Mozambique to get themselves right back in the thick of this race.

Meke Mwase, who previously played for the national side, has a chance to do something that no Malawi team has done since 1974, hand the Ivory Coast a defeat.

This team came into this group phase struggling, going winless in five straight contests before their defeat to Cameroon, but they will have to put that behind them to have any hope of making it to the third and final qualification round, especially knowing that only the winner of this group will advance.

In their previous meeting against the Elephants, the Flames took a surprise lead in the 64th minute only to see Didier Drogba equalise three minutes later as both sides played to a 1-1 draw in a qualifying fixture for the 2010 World Cup.

The last time they were at this stage of World Cup qualifying, they had an opportunity to cause a massive upset and advance out of their group, but an own-goal versus Kenya followed by a 2-0 defeat in Nigeria sent the Super Eagles through to round three before they eventually qualified for the finals.

This is a relatively young side with no one over the age of 30, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of playing a team like the Ivory Coast, who were among the top teams in the continent not long ago.

After qualifying for three successive World Cup finals between 2006 and 2014, there is a chance for the Ivory Coast to regain its prominence on the international stage.

In their 2018 campaign, they appeared to be on their way to Russia before hitting a wall down the stretch, falling 2-1 to Gabon, drawing 0-0 against Mali and finishing with a 2-0 defeat to Morocco.

That late collapse cost Marc Wilmots his job as their coach but under new manager Patrice Beaumelle, this side have lost only two of their last 11 competitive fixtures since 2020, including a 1-1 draw with top-seeded Belgium in a friendly in Brussels last year.

There is no shortage of quality and individual talent among these players, with the majority of them plying their trade in Europe, but it will be interesting to see how well they can gel as a unit, with so many contrasting styles of play among them at club level.

In their previous match, they put together a huge victory versus the side that may be their biggest threat to qualifying for round three of this competition, scoring twice in the opening half-hour to defeat Cameroon 2-1.

They are goalless in their previous two road fixtures, including a draw in their opening match of the second round to Mozambique, but the Elephants have never been shut out in six total meetings with Malawi.

A nation that was ranked as high as 12th in the world at one point back in 2013 are now down to 54th according to the latest FIFA World Rankings, and they will be eager to regain their status as a powerhouse team in Africa.

Malawi World Cup Qualifying - Africa form:
  • D
  • W
  • L
  • W

Malawi form (all competitions):
  • D
  • L
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • W

Ivory Coast World Cup Qualifying - Africa form:
  • D
  • W

Ivory Coast form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W

Team News

An 81st-minute penalty from Gerald Phiri helped send Malawi into the second round of World Cup qualifying, while striker Richard Mbulu fired home the winner 10 minutes into their match with Mozambique and goalkeeper Richard Chipuwa kept the opposition at bay from there, collecting a clean sheet.

Gabadinho Mhango is among their more experienced players, with the Orlando Pirates striker earning over 50 caps to go along with 11 international goals, while former Sheriff forward Peter Banda is still searching for his first goal for his country.

Scottish-born defender Kieran Ngwenya is among their more inexperienced players, with the 19-year-old currently on loan at Kelty Hearts in Scotland, but he and Sheriff midfielder Charles Petro could have significant roles to play for this side in their upcoming qualifiers.

Manchester United centre-back Eric Bailly and Wolves defender Willy Boly are expected to start at the back for the Ivorians, while we should see Serge Aurier start as their right-back with the former Tottenham Hotspur defender recently signing for Villarreal earlier this month.

Ajax striker Sebastien Haller notched a brace in their previous match against Cameroon, his second and third career international goals, while Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, who led his club in scoring last season, is searching for his first goal with the national side in nearly two years.

Midfielder Max Gradel has an opportunity on Friday to move into a tie for eighth in all-time appearances for the Elephants with former defender Arthur Boka, who earned 88 caps for his country.

Malawi possible starting lineup:
Chipuwa; Ngwenya, Sanudi, Chembezi, Nyasulu; Petro, Chirwa, Idana; Banda, Mhango, Chester

Ivory Coast possible starting lineup:
Gbohouo; Boly, Kossounou, Bailly, Aurier; Gradel, Kessie, Sangare; Pepe, Zaha, Gervinho

We say: Malawi 0-1 Ivory Coast

Historically speaking, aside from a 5-0 defeat in 2009, Malawi have fared well against the Elephants in previous matches but have struggled with consistency this year, unable to beat even mediocre sides, losing to Tanzania and Ethiopia among others, getting outscored 6-0 in that time.

The Ivory Coast have quality all over the pitch, and you have to think that they should be able to fire at least one past Malawi.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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