One exciting feature of this year’s COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship will be the fact that it doubles up as a zonal qualifier for the 2021 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations that is scheduled to be hosted in Mauritania.
Previously teams have used the regional Under-20 championship to fine-tune for qualifiers for the continental showpiece, but now it will take up that status on its own, with the two finalists both earning a place in the competition.
The Under-20 Cup of Nations will in turn provide qualification for the 2021 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, meaning the COSAFA even this year in Nelson Mandela Bay from December 3-13 is the beginning of that journey.
It is no surprise that South Africa’s success in reaching the last two FIFA Under-20 World Cups in 2017 and 2019 is off the back of them winning the COSAFA title in 2017 and 2018.
Nine of the 14 COSAFA nations have qualified for the continental finals in the past, with Angola (2001) and Zambia (2017) the only ones to win gold.
South Africa were runners-up in 1997 and also won the bronze medal in 2019, the only other Southern African side to finish in the top three.
The four semi-finalists at the Under-20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania will book a place in the World Cup.
Here is a rundown of how the COSAFA teams have fared at the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations, taking into account it was played as a knockout competition until 1991:
Qualified (6): 1983, 1985, 1989, 1999, 2001, 2005
Best finish: Winners (2001)
Qualified (1): 1983
Best finish: First round (1983)
Qualified (3): 1989, 2005, 2011
Best finish: Group Stages (2005, 2011)
Qualified (1): 1999
Best finish: Group Stages (1999)
Qualified (3): 1979, 1993, 1995
Best finish: Group Stages (1993, 1995)
Qualified (1): 1987
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1987)
Qualified (8): 1997, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2019
Best finish: Runners-up (1997)
Qualified (9): 1985, 1987, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2007, 2015, 2017
Best finish: Winners (2017)
Qualified (3): 1981, 1983, 1985
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1983, 1985)