WINDHOEK – After weeks of uncertainty over the country’s participation in this year’s Cosafa U/20 Cup, Namibia finally confirmed her participation in the 2018 regional youth football showpiece slated for Kitwe, Zambia later this December.
As of last week, the Namibia Football Association (NFA) was still engulfed in hesitation as to whether the country will partake in the youth competition or not, due to the unavailability of funds to secure the trip to Zambia as well as prepare the team for the event.
But yesterday, NFA secretary general Barry Rukoro confirmed to New Era Sport that Namibia will be represented at this year’s Cosafa U/20 Championships taking place in Zambia from 2-14 December this year.
Namibia did not compete in 2016, but returned last year and narrowly missed out on a place in the semifinals after being held to a 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe in their final pool match.
They join the first-round draw, which will take place in Kitwe tomorrow, when the 12 sides will be placed in three pools. The top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up will advance to the semifinals.
Champions South Africa will return to defend the title they won in Kitwe last year and will be among the pre-tournament favourites, though they will likely bring a much-changed side.
Zimbabwe are six-time winners of the competition, but their last win came in 2007 and they will be itching to lift the trophy again. Last year’s finalists Lesotho will be back to have another go at a first title, after they impressed in Kitwe before going down 2-1 in the final against South Africa.
Angola finished third in 2016 but lost out in the first-round last year, while Botswana are back in the field after they missed out on competing 12 months ago.
Malawi have always been strong competitors at this age-group level and will likely be among the contenders again, while Mauritius will want to make up for losing all three games in 2017.
Mozambique were competitive in a tough pool last year that included South Africa and North African guest nation Egypt and will want to put that experience to good use.
Swaziland and Cosafa associate member, Reunion, who will appear at a regional championship for the first time in their history, make up the remainder of the field.
Zambia are 11-time winners of the Cosafa Under-20 Championships, while Zimbabwe and South Africa have six wins each. Madagascar are the only other nation to lift the title after they enjoyed success in 2005, beating Lesotho in the final. – Adapted from Cosafa.com