Malawi should not fear NATO

Botswana's midfield grafter, Ofentse 'Size 10' Nato has been ruled out of Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Malawi due to a knee injury picked during the last game of the domestic league.

National team coach, Stanley Tshosane has said the Gaborone United (GU) linkman is not fit enough to play the Flames at the New Lobatse Sports Complex. Nato got injured during GU's Premier League game against Notwane a fortnight ago.

The injury forced him out of the friendly international between the Zebras and Swaziland's Isihlangu that ended in a goalless draw last Wednesday. "I would have wanted to have all the players because this game is as equally important to us as the other qualifiers and we want to win it. Sadly, we won't have Size 10 (Nato) on Sunday because he has a knee injury that he picked up during their (GU) league game against Notwane.

He's in a lot of pain so we decided to let him rest," Tshosane told Mmegi Sport. It remains unclear how long the young midfielder will be sidelined, but the coach hopes he will join the team when they resume preparations after the Flames' tie. The injury means that Nato will not play Malawi in the qualifiers after missing the first leg last July due to illness.

Tshosane's favoured formation is accommodative of two defensive midfielders and Nato has been paired with Santos' Boitumelo Mafoko in earlier qualifiers. In the absence of Nato, Tshosane may rope in BDF XI anchorman, Patrick Motsepe.

However, Motsepe is struggling with injury and is under the watchful eye of the team doctors.s "The doctors are still monitoring Patrick (Motsepe) because he also has an injury," said Tshosane. The Malawians have their own injury woes, with Russia-based striker Essau Kanyenda, Russell Mwafulirwa and Robert Ngalande of Spanish side Atletico Madrid out of the tie. Kanyenda tore his right leg muscles in his debut against Torpedo Moscow in a league game last month.

He has missed five league games for his club Dynamo Bryansk. Ngalande is out for two weeks. Malawi have to beat the Zebras on Sunday to strengthen their hopes of qualifying for AFCON 2011. The Zebras are already through after amassing 16 points from six matches and the race for the remaining ticket in the group pits Malawi against continental giants, Tunisia. The Flames are second with nine points in the group with a game in hand.

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