The late withdrawal of Madagascar from the 2021 COSAFA Cup has forced a change to the format of the competition, which will now have two groups of five teams each.
Madagascar had been unable to secure their travel to Nelson Mandela Bay for the July 6-18 tournament which, following the decision of Comoros Islands not to come, left the original Group B with only Zambia and Malawi.
And so, the original format of a three-group competition has been simplified into two pools, with the top two nations in each group advancing to the semifinals.
COSAFA conducted a draw to place Zambia and Malawi in the new respective Groups A and B, doing so in the presence of representatives for the 10 remaining teams and the local organising committee.
The draw placed defending champions Zambia in Group A along with hosts South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini. That means Malawi will be in the ‘new’ Group B, which also contains west African guest nation Senegal, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Mozambique.
The fixtures for the opening day of the competition on Tuesday remain the same and will see Eswatini face Lesotho at 14h00 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and South Africa play Botswana at the same venue at 17h00.
The opening matches in the old Group C will now be played on Wednesday and will see Mozambique tackle Zimbabwe at the Wolfson Stadium at 12h00, and Senegal meet Namibia at the same venue at 15h00.
The competition will continue in a round-robin format until each team has played four matches. With sides only guaranteed three games under the previous three-group tournament format, an added fixture will no doubt be welcomed by coaches.
Another change that was announced by the organising committee earlier in the day is that teams may use five substitutes in matches, though they must be brought on at only three separate points during the game. This is in line with FIFA and CAF statutes that have been extended for use up until the end of 2022.