The teams competing at the inaugural COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship will be eying not only the next generation of international stars, but also potentially a run in the 2020 African Women’s Under-17 World Cup Qualifying Tournament.
The global showpiece tournament will be staged in India from September 21-October 4, but the process of preparing for qualifying for teams from the Southern African region will start in Mauritius next month.
COSAFA is leading the way on the African continent in terms of the development of women’s football, with the first ever COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship following closely after similar competitions in the Under-20 and senior age-group.
It is all with the aim of helping teams be more competitive in continental qualifiers and this year the eight-team field contains Botswana, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and East African guest nation Uganda.
Botswana, Zambia and South Africa all entered the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup but the advent of the COSAFA championship could see that number grow as teams are given the chance to compete in this age-group.
Botswana edged Zambia in a fascinating first round tie in the last qualifiers as they came back from 5-2 down after the first leg to win 4-0 and advance 6-5 on aggregate. There were goals galore in the next round against South Africa as well as the latter claimed both ties
with 5-2 and 6-4 victories for an 11-6 aggregate result. South Africa went on to defeat Morocco 6-1 on aggregate in the final stage and book their ticket to Uruguay along with fellow African sides Ghana and Cameroon.
It was the second time that the South Africans had competed on the global stage after also qualifying for the 2010 finals, while they are also one of only two teams from the region to compete at the World Cup.
Zambia are the other after they qualified for the 2014 finals Costa Rica, where they exited in the first round, but not before beating their hosts 2-1 in their final pool match.
The 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship will be staged in Mauritius between September 20-29. The hosts have been drawn alongside Comoros, Uganda and Zambia in Group A, while Group B also has two island nations as Seychelles and Madagascar square-off against South Africa and Botswana.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals, after which the competition switches to a knockout format.