With a little over two weeks to go to the start of the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship, the excitement is building ahead of what will be a unique and fascinating competition in Nelson Mandela Bay from September 28-October 9.
For the first time there will be three guest nations competing in Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan, and all the leading sides from the COSAFA region will be in attendance.
Here is a reminder of the groups, the fixtures and just what to expect in what is likely to be a tightly-contested race for the trophy. Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semifinals.
28-Sep: Angola vs Mozambique – 12h00
28-Sep: South Africa vs Malawi – 15h30
01-Oct: Malawi vs Mozambique – 12h00
01-Oct: South Africa vs Angola – 15h30
04-Oct: South Africa vs Mozambique – 15h30
04-Oct: Angola vs Malawi – 15h30
Summary: Hosts South Africa are aiming for a fifth successive trophy win in the regional competition but have a tricky first round pool to navigate.
They faced Malawi in the semifinals last year, where after a goalless first half, won 6-2 in a remarkable game that showcased the quality of both sides.
They will also meet Mozambique in the first round qualifiers for the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, meaning that fixture has extra significance as a dress rehearsal for their tie later in October.
Angola are always a dangerous side and finished second in South Africa’s first round pool last year. Banyana Banyana won their match 2-0, which proved decisive in them gaining top spot.
The home sides will be favourites to advance, but each of their opponents provides danger and will fancy their chances of an upset.
29-Sep: Botswana vs South Sudan – 12h00
29-Sep: Tanzania vs Zimbabwe – 15h30
02-Oct: Botswana vs Tanzania – 12h00
02-Oct: South Sudan vs Zimbabwe – 15h30
04-Oct: Botswana vs Zimbabwe – 12h00
04-Oct: Tanzania vs South Sudan – 12h00
Summary: Tanzania have been regular visitors to COSAFA events down the years, but South Sudan will make their maiden appearances.
They are coached by South African Shilene Booysen, who was previously a key member of the Banyana Banyana technical team before taking on the challenge of a head coach role herself.
The team are new to international football and very much a work in progress, but she will want to show their improvement in this competition.
Zimbabwe are the only side outside of South African to have lifted the COSAFA Women’s Championship trophy when they won in 2011, and will hope to build on the final appearance for the Black Rhinos Queens in the recent TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers in Durban.
Botswana were beaten finalists in 2020 having run South Africa close and will feel they can go one better this time round.
30-Sep: Namibia vs Uganda – 12h00
30-Sep: Zambia vs Eswatini – 15h30
03-Oct: Eswatini vs Uganda – 12h00
03-Oct: Zambia vs Namibia – 15h30
05-Oct: Zambia vs Uganda – 15h30
05-Oct: Namibia vs Eswatini – 15h30
Summary: Another fascinating pool that will be so hard to call with the traditional strength of Olympic finalists Zambia, the always competitive Namibia, a powerful Uganda side and an Eswatini team that has improved in recent years.
Zambia came close to lifting the trophy in 2019 but lost to South African in the final though there will be real belief they can claim a first regional title this time round.
Namibia are back in the competition after missing our last year due to difficulties around the COVID-19 pandemic, but are always competitive and on their day can give anybody a run for their money.
Uganda have always been a strong contender at their regional CECAFA Women’s Championship and having claimed the COSAFA Under-17 title a few years back, will be hoping to make a big impression here.