The inaugural COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from August 1-11 and features eight teams all vying to be the first to lift the trophy and write their names into the history books.
Here is a team-by-team guide to the sides, as well as their recent form in recent years, as they bid to do battle.
Botswana have been regular participants at women’s Under-20 level and were finalists at the 2018 AUSC Region 5 Games in Gaborone, where they lost 1-0 in the decider to South Africa.
It was still a fine campaign for the side and shows their potential as they seek to lift the inaugural COSAFA championship. They also won silver at the 2014 Games, which featured only four sides and was played in a round-robin format but did not appear two years later in Luanda.
Botswana have entered each of the last six qualification tournaments for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women but have not managed to make significant progress.
They have endured first round exits to Ghana (4-10 on aggregate), Namibia (on pens after 3-3 draw), South Africa (2-7 in 2012 and 2014; 1-9 in 2015), and a walkover loss to Kenya in 2018.
A lot of effort has been made to improve women’s football in the country and this tournament gives them a chance to showcase their rise.
Eswatini will play at the tournament under the watchful gaze of coach Ronny Ginindza, who will hope to show the quality of his squad on a rare visit to a major tournament. The side did feature at the 2018 AUSC Region 5 Games, where they lost both their matches to South Africa (0-2) and Namibia (1-3), though the scorelines suggest they were highly competitive fixtures.
That should give Eswatini plenty of confidence going into this year’s COSAFA finals in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Eswatini have never before entered the qualifiers for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women, but that should remain a major aim for the side in the coming years as they seek to grow the sport in the country.
Luis Fumo has been chosen to lead Mozambique at the championships and will hope to build the squad into one that can challenge on the continental stage.
It will be difficult to gauge the qualities of the youngsters ahead of the tournament, as Mozambique did not feature in any of the recent AUSC Region 5 Games competitions.
They have also sat out the last few qualifiers for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women, with their last shot at the finals coming ahead of the 2014 finals. In their first qualification campaign in 2006, the side ousted Zambia (5-2 on aggregate) in the first round, before losing to South Africa (0-9).
They were beaten by the same opposition two years later (1-7), and then lost to Zimbabwe (0-7) in 2012 and Tanzania (1-15) in 2014.
That has led to some introspection around the team, but they are now ready to return to action.
Namibia will be led by Mervin Mbakera at the championships as they seek to showcase their rich potential in this age-group. The Baby Gladiators have attempted to qualify for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women since 2010 but have only once made it to the second round.
They were then edged 3-2 on aggregate by DR Congo in 2010 and have since lost out to Ghana (0-10 on aggregate), Zambia (0-3), DR Congo (0-5) and South Africa (0-9).
The side took their place in the 2014 AUSC Region 5 Games women’s Under-20 tournament, gaining a draw with Botswana, but also losing to Zimbabwe and South Africa.
They reached the final of the competition two years later, but again lost out to the South Africans, while in 2018 they finished fourth after a 2-0 loss to Zimbabwe in the bronze medal match.
South Africa have been a power in the region at this level in recent years and will be among the heavy favourites to lift the title on home soil. They have won the last three AUSC Region 5 Games women’s Under-20 tournaments, a yardstick for how they might perform in Nelson Mandela Bay, where they will also no doubt enjoy considerable support.
They claimed the round-robin competition in 2014 with three wins against Botswana (3-1), Zimbabwe (5-0) and Namibia (6-1). Two years later they repeated the feat, beating Namibia in the final as current Banyana Banyana stars such as Linda Motlhalo shone.
At the last finals in 2018, the side were victorious again, this time beating hosts Botswana 1-0 in the decider.
South Africa have entered every qualification campaign for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women, but failed at the final hurdle on five occasions, never making it through to the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
A combination of Nigeria, DR Congo and Ghana have denied them a place at the global finals down the years.
East African guest nation Tanzania will add an extra dimension to the field for the COSAFA championship and continue a long tradition of teams from the country competing in Southern African competitions.
The senior women’s side have enjoyed some excellent results down the years, while the Under-20s have also had the ability to spring a surprise, though their entrance to the stage has been more recent. The country has attempted to qualify for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women in the last three editions only.
In 2014 they defeated Mozambique 15-1 on aggregate in the first round but lost 9-1 to South Africa in the next stage. In 2015 they were beaten 4-0 by Zambia in the first stage, and in 2018 lost 9-0 to continental powerhouses Nigeria.
The team will be coached by Bakari Shime in 2019.
Zambia have traditionally been one of the top sides in the COSAFA region across all ages and gender in football and will want to show that again in Nelson Mandela Bay under coach Charles Haalubono.
The team did not enter the qualifiers for the 2018African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women, nor the AUSC Region 5 Games last year, so will return to action after something of a hiatus. They have in fact not played in any of the recent Region 5 competition, meaning there is little form with which to gauge their progress on a regional level.
They were defeated in the quarterfinals of the continental qualifiers in 2002, losing 4-2 on aggregate to South Africa, and then have lost to Mozambique (2-5 in 2006), Egypt (on away goals after 3-3 draw in 2008), South Africa again in 2010 (2-7) and 2015 (2-3), Kenya (2-5 in 2012) and Equatorial Guinea (0-6 in 2014.
Zimbabwe have been dormant on the continental stage for some years at women’s Under-20 level, so will relish the opportunity to rise again and feature in a major competition with the opportunity for silverware.
They will hope to build on the bronze medal they won at the 2018 AUSC Region 5 Games women’s Under-20 tournament, where they edged Namibia 2-0 in the third-place play-off.
That came after they had been edged by South Africa in the semifinals, and after a fourth-place finish in the competition two years earlier in Luanda, Angola.
Zimbabwe also appeared at the AUSC Region 5 Games in 2014 but managed just a single win against Namibia (2-1), to go with defeats to South Africa and Botswana, both by 5-0 scorelines.
Zimbabwe have not entered the qualifiers for the African Under-20 Cup of Nations for Women for the last three editions. They did enter in 2002 and 2006, but exited after failing to honour their fixtures, and then lost 10-1 on aggregate to Nigeria in 2010, and 6-0 to the same opposition two years later.