Zimbabwe coach Tafadzwa Mashiri admits he is in a race against time to be ready for the 2018 COSAFA Under-17 Championships as he continues to scour the country for fresh young talent for the regional showpiece event.
Mashiri’s predicament is one faced by all coaches at the competition as they not only seek to identify the best young players in the country, but must then also ensure they have the right documentation to travel for the finals in Mauritius from July 19-29.
“I think by that we will assemble a strong team that will be able to blend when we get into camp,” Mashiri told The Herald. “We would have liked to have a wide selection throughout the country, but we are running out of time.”
Mashiri and his technical team have already been to Bulawayo and Gweru, where they have short-listed 16 players, but will not be able to scout at the prestigious Copa Coca-Cola junior event as time will now allow as they go into camp on July 1.
“Selection should have involved tournaments like the Copa Coca-Cola, whose finals will come barely a week before our departure,” he said.
“A passport and other relevant travelling documents are a pre-requisite and we will not have time to prepare travel documents.”
Mashiri is confident that the side can still do well, having never won the regional Under-17 title before, and slipping to a first round exit in 2017.
“We will try to allow the players to bond within the three weeks we have in camp,” he said.
The Young Warriors will feel they have a good chance of advancing to the semifinals as they face Swaziland, Malawi and Angola in their pool.
While all of those teams will be tough, they have managed to avoid heavyweights Zambia and South Africa, as well as tricky hosts Mauritius, who were finalists last year.
Only the top team in each pool and the best runner-up advance to the semfinals, and keep their hopes alive of qualifying for the African Under-17 Championships in Tanzania next year.
The winner of the 2018 COSAFA Under-17 Championships will automatically seal a berth at those finals and put them in the frame to win a place at the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Peru.