PREVIEW – ‘Big Guns’ to light up quarterfinals

With the first round group stage now a thing of the past, the COSAFA Cup 2015 enters the group stage on Sunday with two fascinating clashes to herald in the knockout phase of the competition.

Madagascar and Namibia were the two nations who advanced from the first round and the latter get the quarterfinals under way with a meeting against defending champions Namibia.

The match will be played at the Moruleng Stadium at 15hoo local time (13h00 GMT).

Zambia have brought a strong squad to the regional championship, looking to defend the title they won on home soil two years ago.

With Zimbabwe out of the running in 2015, they could move ahead on the winners list by claiming a record fifth COSAFA Cup title if they are to be victorious this year.

But first inform Namibia stand in their way, fresh from an excellent 4-1 victory over Zimbabwe in their last Group A match on Thursday.

“Namibia want to show that they are a team to reckon with. They is something at stake that they are fighting for,” Janza told reporters. “It is not going to be an easy game but we will ensure that we will take the game to them.

Zambia are also defending a proud record against Namibia in the COSAFA Cup having never lost to the Brave Warriors before.

And with experienced internationals such as Kennedy Mweene, Emmanuel Mbola and Mukuka Mulenga in their line-up, they will be a force again.

Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti has seen his side get better with every game in South Africa.

He was delighted with the thumping win over Zimbabwe in midweek, and says if his players believe in themselves more they can match anybody.

“I am very hard on my players, they underestimate themselves a lot so if we just manage to slow the game down and not been to hasty in front of goals everything will come together,” he said.

The second semifinal will be equally intriguing as South Africa host Botswana at the same venue (kick-off 17h30 local time; 15h30 GMT).

This will be the first game of the competition for both teams, though South Africa did defeat Malawi 2-1 in a warm-up fixture on Friday.

Bafana Bafana have a much-changed line-up of players who are looking to impress coach Shakes Mashaba and force their way into his squad for the African Nations Cup qualifier against Gambia next month.

Mashaba believes if Bafana Bafana are to progress as a team and regain their status as a heavyweight on the continent then they have to win their regional championship first.

“The fact is, we always struggle against our neighbours and yet people always complain when they give us problems,” Mashaba said. “That is why we have got to start here. The fact is, we do not beat Botswana and other neighbouring countries by wide margins like 5-0 or 6-0.”

Botswana coach Peter Butler has a mostly youthful squad mixed in with some old heads and he says gaining a first ever win over South Africa would represent a huge fillip for the side.

“I’ve got a humble team which will keep its feet on the ground. It’s a great opportunity for us to pit our wits against South Africa, who are, far and away, a much bigger association than us.

“We must be careful not to get carried too far ahead of ourselves, be realistic and have a pragmatic approach. Of course, though, we want to make an impact in every tournament and qualifier that we enter.”