Sibanda pleased with “fair” draw for COSAFA Women’s Championship

Zimbabwe coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda has described her side’s draw at the COSAFA Women’s Championship as “fair” as she gathers the team for their first activity since last year’s competition.

The regional showpiece tournament will kick-off in Nelson Mandela Bay on July 31, with the final to be staged on August 11.

The Mighty Warriors have not been active since they were knocked out in the first round of the competition in September 2018, a competition where they showed plenty of promise.   Zimbabwe claimed two victories in the pool stage, but a 2-1 loss to East African Guest nation Uganda ultimately saw them exit at the first stage.

This year they have been drawn alongside Angola, Mozambique and Eswatini, and will be hopeful of progression.   “It is all about preparation at the end of the day, otherwise it’s a fair draw. Obviously we should be ready for anyone,” Sibanda told the Herald.

“I am sure we have the potential to win the cup again if we prepare well. When we won the cup a few years ago [in 2011] the preparations were spot-on, the team had several friendly matches and a lengthy camp, so it is all about putting resources into the preparations.”

Women’s football in Zimbabwe has seen a resurgence in recent years after the side won the Southern African championship in 2011 and also qualified for the Olympic Games football tournament in Brazil in 2016.

Zimbabwe, who were runners-up on home soil in the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship, have always been a competitive side and finally broke their duck in the competition with victory in 2011.

They reached the final in the inaugural competition in 2002 but lost to South Africa 2-1 in the decider in Harare.

They had stormed into the decider with four straight wins in which they scored a staggering 36 goals, including a competition record 15-0 victory over Lesotho in their opener.   They finished top of their pool again in 2006 after two matches against their only pool opponent, Angola, but came unstuck in the semifinals this time with a 4-1 loss to South Africa. They were beaten to third place by Zambia when they went down 2-1 in the bronze medal match.

The 2008 championship in Angola provided little joy, but they finally lifted the trophy in 2011 on home soil when they proved a dominant force again and beat South Africa 1-0 in the final.  They could not quite repeat that feat in Bulawayo in 2017 as they took the best runner-up spot in their pool with victory over Madagascar (4-0) and draws with Zambia (1-1) and Malawi (3-3), before walloping East African guest nation Kenya 4-0 in the semifinals.

That set up a final against old foes South Africa, but Zimbabwe finished on the losing side by a 2-1 scoreline.

Zimbabwe open their 2019 campaign against Angola on July 31, which is also the opening match of the tournament at the Wolfson Stadium. They then take on Mozambique on August 2 and Eswatini three days later.