The draw for the Southern African regional qualifiers in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) was concluded on Thursday, giving the 12 competing COSAFA sides their path to the finals in Algeria early next year.
This year’s COSAFA Cup in Durban will run from July 5-17, providing excellent preparation for the qualifiers, which will get under just five days after the final of the regional showpiece tournament.
Coaches will therefore be able to select their best homebased players for the COSAFA Cup in the knowledge that it is fantastic preparation for not just the CHAN preliminaries, but also the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that will be staged in September.
It is a busy period of international football in which the COSAFA Cup will take centre-stage with added significance this year.
Mauritius will tackle Angola in their first round CHAN tie, with the winner to meet either Comoros Islands or South Africa in the second and final stage. The latter two countries have never met in international football before, despite both playing for years in the COSAFA Cup.
Botswana will take on Eswatini in their CHAN tie, with the victor to meet one of two island nations in the second round, Seychelles or Madagascar.
Malawi will meet Zimbabwe in a heavyweight clash in the CHAN first round, subject to the latter having their FIFA suspension lifted at least two weeks before the start of the qualifiers.
The winner there will face either Mozambique or Zambia in the second round, and whichever way that goes it will be another huge match-up.
The first legs in the opening round of CHAN qualifiers will be played from July 22-24, with the second legs from July 29-31. The second round will start with the first legs on August 26-28, and the return fixtures on September 2-4.
The three winners of the second round ties will advance to the finals in Algeria.
Six COSAFA nations have appeared at the CHAN finals since they were first played in 2009.
Zambia (2009, 2016, 2018, 2020) finished third at that inaugural competition, while for Zimbabwe it was the first of five appearances (2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2020).
Angola were runners-up in 2011 and also appeared in 2016 and 2018, while South Africa (2011, 2014) have appeared twice, the second time as hosts.
Mozambique’s only previous appearance was in 2014, while Namibia have been to the last two finals in 2018 and 2020.
2023 AFRICAN NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS
FIRST ROUND DRAW
Mauritius vs Angola
Comoros Islands vs South Africa
Botswana vs Eswatini
Seychelles vs Madagascar
Malawi vs Zimbabwe
Mozambique vs Zambia
SECOND ROUND DRAW
Mauritius/Angola vs Comoros Islands/South Africa
Botswana/Eswatini vs Seychelles/Madagascar
Malawi/Zimbabwe vs Mozambique/Zambia