THE country’s football mother body, Zifa, on Wednesday revealed that Bulawayo City head coach Bekithemba “Super” Ndlovu, will again take charge of the national Under-20 team at this year’s MOPANI Copper Mines Cosafa Championship in Kitwe, Zambia from 2 to 14 December.
He will be assisted by ex-Highlanders and Chicken Inn coach Mark Mathe.
B-Metro Sport gives you a team by team guide of the 12 nations that are going to take part at the annual sporting extravaganza.
Zimbabwe will once again be among the favourites for the Cosafa Under-20 Championships having established themselves as a regional powerhouse down the years.
The Young Warriors side has been among the most successful teams in the history of the competition with six wins in all, the last coming in 2007 when they beat hosts South Africa 3-0 to record a comprehensive final win.
They surprisingly did not fare well in South Africa in 2016 though, going out in the first round with 5-1 loss to Zambia followed by a 0-0 draw with Malawi.
South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football and will be looking to defend the crown they won in Kitwe last year.
They have won the competition six times in all, with their first title coming in 2000. They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
They went all the way to the final on home soil in 2016, playing some scintillating football, but lost out to Zambia in the decider with a 2-1 defeat.
That was seen as a major disappointment, but they atoned for that as they went all the way to the gold medal in 2017.
Zambia are the most successful nation in the Cosafa Under-20 Championship competition with 11 victories in all, their last win coming in South Africa in 2016.
Zambia were rampant as they stormed through that competition and inflicted a 2-1 defeat on their hosts in the decider.
They went on to claim the African Youth Championships title, and also excelled at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May last year.
But the side disappointed in the Cosafa Under-20 Championship on home soil in 2017, bowing out in the first round.
They will now seek to extend their record tally of 11 regional titles, five more than second-placed Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Reunion will make their debut at a Cosafa tournament at any age-group level after the associate member requested the chance to take part in the 2018 Cosafa Under-20 Championships.
The island, which is a territory of France, has a rich footballing history and are expected to be competitive having excelled in the Indian Ocean Games against a number of other Cosafa sides, such as Madagascar, Mauritius, Comoros and Seychelles.
The Young Zebras make a return to the Cosafa Under-20 Championships after missing the tournament last year and will seek a first ever trip to the final.
Botswana’s best finishes in this competition came in 2009 and 2011 when they managed third place.
They then hosted in 2011 and this time lost to Zambia in the semi-finals before beating Malawi to bronze.
Their last appearance came in 2016 when the side lost all three of their pool games without scoring a goal.
Angola will be hoping to make history when they compete at the 2018 Cosafa Under-20 Championships.
The country has never tasted success in the junior version of the regional championship, this IS despite some excellent success in the Cosafa Cup senior competition.
Lesotho’s Under-20 side have in the recent past been star performers in the Cosafa region having qualified for the African Youth Championships in 2011, just their second ever appearance at the tournament.
And they did not disgrace themselves at the continental showpiece event in South Africa either, claiming a draw against eventual semi-finalists Mali and losing narrowly to South Africa and Egypt.
Lesotho narrowly missed out on the knockout stages in the 2016 Cosafa Under-20 Championships after two wins and a loss in the pool phase meant they finished second in their group.
Malawi finished a credible fourth in the Cosafa Under-20 Championships tournament in Botswana in 2011 having not played in the previous two instalments of the competition, and then did not appear again in 2013.
They returned in 2016, but could not make it past the first round as a draw and a loss meant they finished second in their three-team pool.
They came closer in 2017, gaining five points, but missing out on top spot in their pool on goal-difference to Uganda.
Mauritius will seek to show their potential at this age group level after mixed performances in recent years as they compete at the 2018 Cosafa Under-20 Championships.
Having taken just a single point from six matches in the two tournaments before the 2016 showpiece event, they came within a whisker of reaching the knockout stages two years ago.
But that was followed by disappointment in 2017 when they lost all three of their games without scoring a goal.
Mozambique are still searching for their first-ever Cosafa Under-20 Championships title having been beaten finalists in 2008.
They lost to then hosts South Africa on that occasion but will be hoping to go one better this time round after disappointingly losing out in the first round of the event in the last six instalments.
Namibia were in many ways the surprise-package of the 2010 Cosafa Under-20 Championships, making it all the way to the final before losing out to Zambia.
Some of the football that they displayed was simply outstanding and players such as captain Sydney Urikhob have gone on to play in South Africa’s Premier Soccer League.
It was their best ever result in the tournament, beating their semifinal showing in 2007, but they could not repeat the feat when they competed in 2013.
Swaziland will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s Cosafa Under-20 Championships having exited the competition in the first round for the last 12 tournaments.
In fact, they did not win a match in the Cosafa Under-20 Championships between 2004 and 2016, a record they finally put right when they beat Botswana 2-0 two years ago.
They also did not manage a win in 2017, with a draw against East African guest nation Uganda sandwiched by defeats to Malawi and hosts Zambia.