Record six-time winners Zimbabwe have been drawn alongside West African guest nation Senegal in the group stages of the historic 20th edition of the Cosafa Cup that will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from 7-18 July .
It is a tasty clash that will ignite the imagination in what is arguably a Group of Death that also includes Mozambique and 2015 Cosafa Cup winners Namibia.
Hosts South Africa also have an intriguing group that includes neighbours Lesotho, Botswana and eSwatini. Bafana Bafana and Botswana have long been foes in this regional competition.
Defending champions Zambia will face Malawi, and the island nations of Madagascar and Comoros in their first-round pool.
Only the top team in each group and the best placed runner-up will advance to the semifinals in what is a change in formation for the tournament this year.
That means each side is guaranteed three games up to a maximum of five, which will provide vital preparation for those national teams involved in 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers later this year.
The Cosafa Cup is making a comeback after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be hosted in Nelson Mandela Bay for the first time, which has been a familiar home for other Cosafa competitions in recent years.
The 19 previous editions of the competition have seen some great performances and incredible games that have been written into the folklore of Southern African football, but only five nations can claim to have lifted the coveted trophy.
Zimbabwe (six wins) lead the way, followed by Zambia (five), South Africa (four), Angola (three) and Namibia (one).
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana have all twice been finalists, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions. Lesotho (2000) is the only other team to reach the decider.
The Warriors will be using the tournament to prepare for the upcoming Fifa World Cup qualifiers slated for September.
However their participation is in doubt following the government’s suspension of sporting disciplines such as football and mass gatherings due to a rise of Covid-19 cases in the country.
Football was not included on the list of 24 sports codes classified as low risk that were on Wednesday given the greenlight to resume their activities in compliance with strict Covid-19 containment measures by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
Zifa is however understood to have applied for a special waiver for the Warriors’ Cosafa Cup participation as well as the resumption of the Chibuku Super Cup.
Cosafa Cup draw in full
Group A: South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana
Group B: Zambia, Malawi, Madagascar, Comoros
Group C: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique.— Staff Writer/SuperSport.