Zambia in tough COSAFA U20 draw
Zambia Under-20 coach Charles Bwale says his players will work hard to wrestle the title away from South Africa during the regional Mopani Copper Mines sponsored COSAFA tournament next month. And COSAFA president Dr Phillip Chiyangwa says the tournament presents an opportunity for players to test their skill against their peers from around the region
Zambia has been drawn in Group A alongside Malawi, Mozambique and newcomers Réunion who will bring an extra dimension and something of the unknown as an associate member of COSAFA.
All three will present a stern challenge for Zambia, who were also crowned 2017 African champions, but disappointingly exited in the first round of COSAFA in Kitwe last year.
Group B contains holders South Africa, their traditional rivals at age-group level Namibia, Mauritius and eSwatini. It is another tough pool to call with the teams likely to bring much-changed squads in 2018.
Group C contains last year’s runners-up Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana, who return to the regional championship after skipping last year.
Zimbabwe are six-time winners of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships but have exited in the first round in each of the last two years and will be desperate to atone for those disappointments.
Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals, where the competition switches to a knockout format.
The tournament runs from December 2 to December 12.
Speaking after the draws in Kitwe, Bwale described the upcoming matches as tricky.
“It is a tricky one. We have Malawi and Mozambique [in the group] we have been playing them for a while and we know each other very well but … all the time we have emerged victors when we are playing them,” Bwale said.
“We have to win and help wrestle the title from South Africa who won it last year on our homeground.”
Zambia midfielder Musonda Kalale said his team will win the Cup.
“Malawi is the only team will give us a tough match but of course we are working to win the match. We will do our best and work extra hard,” Kalale said.
Meanwhile, FAZ vice president Rix Mweemba is confident Zambia will lift the championship.
“The draws are very tough. There is no easy team anymore because football has advanced. This is a signal that we should work hard and up our game. We are playing in front of the home crowd so we cannot afford to put up a mediocre performance so we need to rise to the occasion,” said Mweemba.
And Dr Chiyangwa said the tournament will produce plenty of thrilling football.
“It is an exciting draw and one that will produce plenty of thrilling football during the competition, but also a chance for these boys to test their skill against their peers from around the region,” says Dr Chiyangwa.
“The MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships is another step towards us fulfilling our mandate to provide development opportunity to players, coaches, match officials and administrators and will be the fifth tournament that we as COSAFA will manage in 2018.
“We are proud to continue to play our part in developing Southern African football and are grateful to our sponsors MOPANI Copper Mines and our gracious hosts, the Football Association of Zambia, for their continued support.”
The tournament returns to the Copperbelt after a successful staging in Kitwe last year and will be broadcast live on Kwesé TV.
“At Kwesé we pride ourselves in broadcasting nothing but the best in sports. As a broadcast partner for COSAFA in Africa, we are proud to offer a Pan-African platform to showcase our continent’s phenomenal sporting talent on Kwesé’ s extensive broadcast network. With active Kwesé TV subscriptions, sports lovers can follow the season from kick off to the finals on TV or on the move on Kwesi’s mobile app,” said Kwesé TV Zambia country manager Progress Chisenga.
A version of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships was first played in 1983, with Zambia leading the way with 11 titles, while Zimbabwe and South Africa have six each and Madagascar one.
Source: The Mast