Warriors are favourites

Regional powerhouse Zimbabwe go to this year’s Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships as favourites in Group D.

The six-time champions, who are also one of the perennial favourites for the senior version of the tournament, meet minnows Botswana and Swaziland in the group stages, with the top two teams in the pool playing a crossover match against opponents in Group B, which will help decide first place.

Botswana and Swaziland will open the December tournament against each other in Maseru on December 3, while Zimbabwe will make their bow, taking on Swaziland at the same venue a day later.

“The teams will then move to Mafeteng for the third match, with Botswana and Zimbabwe clashing in what should be a tasty afternoon tie,” said tournament spokesperson, Lynda Greef early this week.

“In order to ensure fairness and that all the semi-final teams in the competition have played four matches ahead of the knockout stages, the top two sides in Group D will take on the top two in the other pool with three teams, Group B.”

The side that leads Group D after their first two games will play the second-placed side in Group B, and vice-versa, with both matches set to be played on December 9 at each of the two venues in Maseru and Mafeteng.

Zimbabwe’s Young Warriors side has been amongst the most successful teams in the history of the competition with six wins in all, the last coming in 2007, when second half substitute, Knowledge Musona, powered them past then hosts South Africa 3-0 to record a comprehensive final win.

They surprisingly suffered a first round exit in 2011 though, failing to win a match in their pool that also included Angola, Namibia and Madagascar. Botswana were the previous hosts of the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships and eventually finished third after defeating Malawi 1-0 in the play-off match. It followed a bronze medal as well in 2009, which represents Botswana’s best-ever finishes in the tournament.

Swaziland will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s tournament having exited the competition in the first round for the last nine tournaments.

In fact, they have not won a match at the COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships since 2004, a record they will be desperate to put right this year. They were in a tough first round pool in 2011 with hosts Botswana and Mozambique, losing both those games 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.

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