The draw has been made for the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup to be staged in Namibia from June 11-25 and has thrown up some intriguing contests to be played in the Southern African championship.
Here are 10 reasons to look forward to the COSAFA Castle Cup in just six weeks time as we take you through some facts and figures.
Zimbabwe hold the aces in Group A
Zimbabwe have met first round opponents Swaziland on five previous occasions – they have only played Zambia and Angola more in the COSAFA Castle Cup. Swaziland do have a victory over the mighty Warriors though when they triumphed 2-0 in Harare in 2002. Zimbabwe have played their other first round opponents Madagascar and Seychelles once each in the past, winning both games.
Seychelles in seventh heaven
Believe it or not, Seychelles hold the record for the biggest ever victory in COSAFA Cup history. They defeated Mauritius 7-0 in 2008 for what remains their only ever victory after 16 matches. Philip Zialor got four goals in that game and two more in 2013 to lead the country’s scoring charts in the COSAFA Castle Cup.
All to play for …
Angola might be favourites to emerge from the first round Group B but they have in fact lost to two of their opponents in the past. Lesotho claimed a 2-1 success in Maseru in 2000, while Malawi won by the same scoreline in Blantyre two years later. Despite being a dominant force in the region, Angola have just a single success in their last six COSAFA Castle Cup matches … a 3-2 win over Malawi in 2013.
First time for everything
Mauritius and Malawi will go into the unknown when they clash in their Group B fixture having never before met in the COSAFA Castle Cup. And the Mauritians only have a single meeting against their other pool opponents, Lesotho, which resulted in a 1-0 loss in 2009. They have also endured two losses against Angola, which means even a draw in any of their pool games will be making history of sorts.
A rare event …
It is an amazing statistic for two teams who have been so successful in the COSAFA Castle Cup, but South African and potential quarterfinal opponents Angola have only ever met once before in the competition. That was in 2009 in Zimbabwe when Lennox Bacela and Oupa Manyisa scored in a 2-0 win for the South Africans. Amazingly, these two countries played five times in official matches in 2015 alone, two in the African Nations Championship qualifiers, two in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers and a friendly in Cape Town.
Beware the rampaging Zebras
Namibia have only ever lost once in 13 home matches in the COSAFA Castle Cup competition, a remarkably consistent record down the years. But guess who that loss came against? That’s right, Botswana, in 2003. Why is that significant? Because the same two teams will meet in the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament. Botswana also played in Windhoek in 2005 when the game ended in a 1-1 draw and needed to be settled by a post-match shoot-out, with the Zebras again triumphing.
Clash of the giants
Zimbabwe potentially lie in wait as quarterfinal opponents for Zambia and that would set up one of the great tussles in COSAFA Castle Cup history. The two nations have met on six previous occasions, with two victories each and two draws. That includes back-to-back finals in 2009 and 2013, with Zimbabwe winning 3-1 in the first game and Zambia gaining revenge with a 2-0 success in the second.
No stranger danger for Mambas
Mozambique will line up against COSAFA Castle Cup guest nation DR Congo in their quarterfinal. It will not be the first time they have played a side from outside of Southern Africa in the competition though. They faced-off against Tanzania in the inaugural event in 1997 and won 3-0 thanks to a brace of goals from Tico-Tico and a further strike from Adelino.
You have to go back all the way to 2006 for the last time that Namibia played a COSAFA Castle Cup clash at home. That was against Malawi and they were made to work hard for a 3-2 success, the winning goal coming from a Henrico Botes penalty. Their home fans will be delighted to see the hosts and cup holders back in action in the Southern African championship.
Shoot-out a lottery for Zambia
Zambia have been involved in the most penalty shoot-outs in COSAFA Castle Cup history having featured in 12 down the years. They have won only five of those, suggesting it is an area of their game they can work on. They lost 5-4 on penalties to eventual winners Namibia in the quarterfinals of the 2015 COSAFA Castle Cup in South Africa.