The 2017 COSAFA Under-20 Championships will be played in the Zambian city of Kitwe from December 6-16. Here is a lowdown on the 12 competing nations ahead of this week’s first round draw.
Angola will be hoping to make history when they compete at the 2017 COSAFA Under-20 Championships.
The country have never tasted success in the junior version of the regional championship, this despite some excellent success in the COSAFA Cup senior competition.
They have appeared in four finals though, losing three in a row between 2000 and 2002, and then again in 2011 when they went down 2-1 to Zambia.
Angola finished top of their pool in the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships with two wins and a draw, but lost 5-0 in the semifinals against South Africa and finished the competition in fourth place after a loss on penalties to guest side DR Congo in the bronze-medal match.
Angola have always be known as a fine producer of young talent, many of whom make their way to Portugal and other parts of Europe.
North African giants Egypt will be appearing at the 2017 COSAFA Under-20 Championships as a guest nation and will bring their excellent technical and organizational ability to the competition.
Egypt have been a power on the continent at Under-20 level in the past, and have won the continental crown on four previous occasions, most recently in 2013.
They have also been to eight FIFA Under-20 World Cups, with their best finish in 2001 when they picked up the bronze medal.
They will add an extra dimension to the COSAFA Under-20 Championships and provide a contrasting style for the competing teams. They will certainly be among the pre-tournament favourites.
Lesotho’s Under-20 side have in the recent past been star performers in the COSAFA region having qualified for the African Youth Championships in 2011, just their second ever appearance at the tournament.
And they did not disgrace themselves at the continental showpiece event in South Africa either, claiming a draw against eventual semi-finalists Mali and losing narrowly to South Africa and Egypt.
Lesotho narrowly missed out on the knockout stages in the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships after two wins and a loss in the pool phase meant they finished second in their group.
Lesotho have made the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships before, in 2005, when they lost 1-0 to Madagascar, the closest they have come to claiming the prestigious junior crown.
Malawi finished a credible fourth in the COSAFA Under-20 Championships tournament in Botswana in 2011 having not played in the previous two instalments of the competition, and then did not appear again in 2013.
They returned in 2016, but could not make it past the first round as a draw and a loss meant they finished second in their three-team pool.
Malawi have yet to win the regional showpiece competition, but did reach the final in 2003 when they lost out to Zambia in the decider.
The side last made it out of their group six years ago, but lost 4-2 to Angola in the semifinals and were then beaten 1-0 by hosts Botswana in the third-place play-off.
Mauritius will seek to build on a much improved showing when they take part in the 2017 COSAFA Under-20 Championships.
Having taken just a single point from six matches in the two tournaments before last year’s showpiece event, they came within a whisker of reaching the knockout stages in 2016.
They needed to beat Angola in their final pool game to advance, but were held to a 1-1 draw to end the campaign unbeaten with a win and two draws, their best showing to date in the competition.
In Botswana in 2011 the side lost all three of their pool matches, conceding 11 goals and scoring none, and two years later claimed a single point from three games.
Mozambique are still searching for their first-ever COSAFA Under-20 Championships title having been beaten finalists in 2008.
They lost to then hosts South Africa on that occasion but will be hoping to go one better this time round after disappointingly losing out in the first round of the event in the last five installments.
They did narrowly miss out on the semifinals in Botswana in 2011, the hosts just pipping them on goal-difference in a three-team pool that also included Swaziland.
And in 2016 they finished their three-team pool with two draws and so lost out to DR Congo for a place in the knockout stages.
Namibia were in many ways the surprise-package of the 2010 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, making it all the way to the final before losing out to Zambia.
Some of the football that they displayed was simply outstanding and players such as Captain Sydney Urikhob have gone on to play in South Africa’s PSL.
It was their best ever result in the tournament, beating their semifinal showing in 2007, but they could not repeat the feat when they last competed in 2013.
There they managed five points from a possible nine to finish second in their first round pool behind the powerful South Africans.
Namibia did not compete in the last COSAFA Under-20 Championships held in South Africa in 2016.
South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football and will be looking to regain the crown they lost a year ago having claimed the 2013 COSAFA Under-20 Championships.
They have won the competition five times in all, with their first title coming in 2000. They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
They went all the way to the final on home soil in 2016, playing some scintillating football, but lost out to Zambia in the decider with a 2-1 defeat.
They will again be among the favourites this year.
Swaziland will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships having exited the competition in the first round for the last 11 tournaments.
In fact, they did not won a match at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships between 2004 and 2016, a record they finally put right when they beat Botswana 2-0 last year.
That was still not enough to advance to the knockout stages though as they suffered defeats to South Africa and Lesotho later on in the competition.
Uganda are the second guest nation in this year’s COSAFA Under-20 Championships and will be something of an unknown quantity out of East Africa.
They should make for an exciting mix of styles and will look to capture the form of the senior national side, who qualified for the 2017 African Nations Cup, their first visit to the continental showpiece competition for almost 40 years.
Uganda have perhaps not hit the heights they would have liked to an Under-20 level, but are a country rich in football tradition and have produced a number of star players in the past.
Zambia are the most successful nation in the COSAFA Under-20 Championship competition with 11 victories in all, including in the last tournament in South Africa in 2016.
Zambia were rampant as they stormed through the competition and inflicted a 2-1 defeat on their hosts in the decider.
They went on to claim the African Youth Championships title, and also excelled at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May.
They have now taken their winning tally to 11 regional titles, five more than second-placed Zimbabwe, and were also losing finalists in 2004 and 2006.
Zimbabwe will once again be among the favourites for the COSAFA Under-20 Championships having established themselves as a regional powerhouse down the years.
The Young Warriors side has been amongst the most successful teams in the history of the competition with six wins in all, the last coming in 2007 when they beat hosts South Africa 3-0 to record a comprehensive final win.
They surprisingly did not fare well in South Africa in 2016 though, going out in the first round with 5-1 loss to Zambia followed by a 0-0 draw with Malawi.
They will expect much better this time round.