Malawi return to the FIFA World Cup ™ qualifiers with hopes of an improved performance, having put considerable effort into their preparations under English coach Steven Constantine. The Flames have been drawn in a tough group, however, paired with reigning African champions Egypt and the potentially powerful Democratic Republic of Congo.
Malawi will be hoping to improve on past performances in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. In the qualification rounds for France 1998, the Flames from Malawi met South Africa in the first round and were sent crashing out of the competition after two defeats. Four years later, Malawi played Kenya in the first round and after winning the first game 2-0, they looked well on course in the return leg when the score was goalless with two minutes remaining. However, the game then had to be abandoned after crowd disturbances.
The match was then duly awarded to Malawi and they went through to the second round where they were drawn into a group with, amongst others, South Africa again. Once again the Bafana proved too strong for Malawi and after just six matches South Africa had qualified for their second successive appearance at the world finals, while Malawi's dream had once again ended prematurely.
The Malawians were thus quite content when the draw for the qualifiers for Germany 2006 paired them with Ethiopia. But even the most optimistic fans did not expect the passage into the group stage of the qualifying campaign to be as easy as it proved to be after Russian-based Essau Kanyenda scored a brace and Peter Mgangira added a third a minute from time to give them a 3-1 victory in Addis Ababa.
They had to go into the return leg in Blantyre with a new coach when Alan Gillett quit after the victory in Ethiopia. His assistant, Edington Ng'onamo, was given the task of leading the side for in return leg, which ended goalless to send the Flames through to the group stage.
This was as good as it got for Malawi, however, as they managed only one win and three draws and slipped to six defeats.