Misplaced confidence by Ghana
In the immediate aftermath of the draw for the final qualifying round of the 2013 African Cup of Nations, there were assertions from some Ghanaian officials that their team would have a walkover against Malawi.
One official was even more blunt by simply declaring Ghana as having already qualified. Oh, really? Will it be that easy for the 'star studded' Black Stars in a two legged knockout tie?
I think this was a mere case of self regard rather than any belief or real conviction that the West Africans will trample all over the Malawian side.
Perhaps in the excitement of having avoided a potential mammoth tie against Senegal, the officials forgot Sports that the Black Stars have been in perennial turmoil since they arrived in Gabon for the Afcon in January this year.
The Black Stars seemed to have reverted egotistic divisions that made the team achieve way below its potential for many years. The dressing room turmoil together with pressure of an ever expecting public have results slide, the divisions deepen and led to the self imposed exile of Asamoah Gyan.
The team surely misses the leadership of Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah.
The Black Stars do indeed one of the best midfield combinations in the world but have very limited attacking options. For instance, at the World Cup they were a fantastic counter attacking side but on the continent, against teams like Malawi, they have to go for it and that hasn't often worked well.
That probably explains why they haven't obliterated opponents despite having dominated the midfield battle.
The Flames must take note that Ghana has failed to comprehensively or soundly beat any Southern African nation in recent memory. In fact, the likes of Lesotho have ran them close and I need not remind readers that Flames held the Black Stars to a goal less draw enroute to the 2010 Afcon in Angola.
Kinnah Phiri has to plan well, get the tactics right and hope that when the day comes for the crucial 'away' first leg encounter, the players must be prepared to apply themselves on the pitch.
Malawi has over the past year or so gradually turned into a more cohesive defensive unit and that may have its advantages in knockout football.
Therefore this encounter may be too colse to call than many would want to believe. Those underating the Flames may wish to take a look at the form book to see that Ghana has made an inconsistent start to its World cup campaign and need to sort out the turmoil within their ranks before writing off Malawi in this tie.
A lot may happen between now and September but the Ghanaian confidence is premature and misplaced.