Zimbabwe has dominated Swaziland (now known as Eswatini) at senior, Under-23 and Undera-20 levels of men’s football and it remains to be seen if the same could happen at under-17.
The two nations were drawn into Group C of the 2018 Cosafa Under-17 set for Mauritius next month. Top seeded Angola and Malawi complete the group.
In the last six years Zimbabwe has never lost to Swaziland with the national Under-20 side knocking Swaziland out of the Cosafa Under-20 edition held in Lesotho a few years ago. It didn’t just end there, Zimbabwe’s young Warriors (Under-23) the Under-23 beat the senior Sihlangu in a friendly match and went on to knock Sihlangwana out of the Olympic qualifiers.
At senior level, the Warriors beat Sihlangu for a berth in the Africa Nations Cup finals held by Gabon in 2017. In the two meetings at the Cosafa senior men’s challenge the two teams drew 2-2 in Namibia and on the last one the Warriors won 2-1.
Now the dominance will next month head to the Under- 17 level when the 12-team tournament takes place in Mauritius from 19-29 July.
It will be a tricky outing as Eswatini will be buoyed by lads like Langa Dlamini who are taking parting in an organised league — Esibayeni Lodge Under-17 League which entered the second half last month with such teams like Young Buffaloes, Matsapha United, Mbabane Swallows and Mbabane Highlanders in top form.
The host nation will be delighted with a draw that will see them avoid any of the Southern African superpowers. They instead will take on Botswana, Namibia and the Seychelles. Mauritius were seeded in Group A as hosts, but also on merit after finishing runners-up at last year’s tournament, which they also hosted. Zambia were top seeds in Group B where they will also take on Lesotho and Mozambique. Group C is headed by Angola, who have been drawn alongside Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The three group winners and best-placed runner-up, determined first by the number of points obtained, advance from the group stages to the semi-finals.
The importance of this championship has been heightened by the decision of the Confederation of African Football that the winner will advance to represent the Cosafa region at the eight-team African U-17 Nations Cup in Tanzania next year (12-26 May 2019).
That, in turn, serves to determine which four African countries will play at the U-17 World Cup in Peru (17 September-8 October 2019).
Group A: Mauritius (A1), Botswana (A2), Namibia (A3), Seychelles (A4)
Group B: Zambia (B1), Mozambique (B2), Lesotho (B3), South Africa (B4)
Group C: Angola (C1), Malawi (C2), Swaziland (C3), Zimbabwe (C4)