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21 years of Cosafa Cup

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The Council of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) celebrates 21 years of organising the Cosafa Cup, with the final for this year’s tournament taking place today in Polokwane City, South Africa, between defending champions, Zimbabwe and their eternal rivals, Zambia.

A lot has changed in the region since the first tournament was staged in 1997. Here is a brief trip down the memory lane as we look at how the tournament has evolved:

1997

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Zambia were crowned inaugural champions of the COSAFA Cup after they claimed the 1997 event with top spot in the tournament mini-league. The maiden southern African championship featured nine sides, including East African guests Tanzania.

The format saw ‘quarterfinal’ matches played, with the four victors in those joining Tanzania in a round-robin competition. Chipolopolo would finish top of the pool and ensure they were regional champions for the year.

1998

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South Africa and Angola joined for the first time, with the pair having missed the inaugural campaign due to their World Cup qualification commitments.

Zambia again headed the table with eight points, followed by Zimbabwe (six), Angola (six), Namibia (five) and Mozambique (one).

1999

For the first time, there was a knockout tournament from start to finish. There were once again 10 competing nations, Zambia and Zimbabwe handed byes through to the quarterfinals having finished as the top two in the previous year’s tournament.

The final was played over two legs, with the first in Luanda settled 1-0 in favour of Angola after a penalty from Betinho.

Eliphas Shivute brought Namibia level in the second leg in Windhoek, sending the tie into extra-time. But a goal from Zico after 101 minutes handed Angola the first of their three Cosafa Cup titles to date.

2000

The fourth instalment saw Zimbabwe claim a first ever title, one of four they would go on to win to date. Seychelles and Madagascar had recently been inaugurated as Cosafa members, but not soon enough to be involved in this year’s competition as they were hindered by budgetary constraints.

2001

The fifth installment featured 11 southern African countries and would again end in an Angolan victory, their second title. Seychelles and Madagascar were missing once more as they battled with financial constraints, but all the usual big names were there to compete.

Zimbabwe had an easier time in getting past Malawi, winning 2-0 as Edzai Kasinauyo and Maxwell Dube scored for them.

2002

South Africa won a maiden Cosafa Cup title, a tournament that also featured Madagascar for the first time. Seychelles were the only member at the time who did not take part. Malawi’s fine run through the tournament continued as they edged Zambia 1-0 in the semi-finals, Esau Kanyenda with the goal, this time from the penalty-spot.

That set up a two-legged final that was comfortably won by South Africa in the end, their 3-1 win in Blantyre in the first match setting up the victory. Patrick Mayo (two) and Jimmy Kauleza scored for South Africa, while Malawi responded with a Patrick Mabedi penalty.

The second leg was won 1-0 by Bafana Bafana, a late goal from Benedict Vilakazi ensuring the trophy was theirs for the first time.

2003

Zimbabwe would claim their second title with a deserved success in another fine tournament. There were two tantalising semifinals, with Malawi defeating Zambia 4-2 on penalties in the first. Russell Mwafulirwa put Malawi ahead, but Sashi Chalwe equalised with a minute to go. The Flames held their nerve in the shoot-out.

A brace from Peter Ndlovu against Swaziland put Zimbabwe into the two-legged decider, which in the end was won comfortably by the Warriors. They claimed a 2-1 success in the first leg in Blantyre, Albert Mbano and Zvenyika Makonese putting them in command before Mwafulirwa pulled a late goal back. But the home leg was a 2-0 success in Harare a week later, Charles Yohane and Peter Ndlovu on the scoresheet.

2004

Angola became the most successful country in Cosafa Cup history at the time when they won the 2004 edition of the competition – their third and to date last title triumph. It was achieved with a run of four successive victories, when they eventually defeated Zambia in the final on penalties.

2005

There was a change in format for the competition, with a group phase that comprised of three pools, each containing four sides. The top teams in each section met in a semi-final, with the winner advancing to the final of the pool. The winners of the three groups then joined holders Angola in the semi-finals which, along with the final, was held in Mafikeng in South Africa.

Zimbabwe claimed their third title in the final though, with a Chandida goal late on handing them a 1-0 victory over the Zambians.

2006

The previous year’s format was maintained, with three first round groups deciding who would join holders Zimbabwe in the semi-finals of the competition. In the final which took place in Lusaka, Zambia eased to a 2-0 victory.

2007

South Africa won the first of two successive titles in 2007, ending up victorious on home soil when they defeated Zambia in a penalty shoot-out in the final.

The final was staged a week later in Bloemfontein and after a 0-0 draw, South Africa triumphed 4-3 on penalties to claim their second title.

2008

This was a tournament of firsts and ended with hosts South Africa lifting the coveted trophy for the second time in succession, and third time overall.

The final at the Thulamahashe Stadium was won 2-1 by South Africa, with Marchelino Fransch getting a brace. Nito scored late on for the Mambas, but it was to be the home side’s night.

2009

Zimbabwe claimed a record fourth title when they won on home soil in 2009. The Warriors were worthy winners of the event that was staged in Harare and Bulawayo over two weeks.

The final in Harare was a hard-fought affair, but Zimbabwe eventually triumphed 3-1 thanks to goals from Nyasha Mushekwi (two) and Cuthbert Malajila. Henry Banda got a consolation for Zambia.

2013

Zambia emerged as winners of a tournament they hosted, to join Zimbabwe on four victories in the regional championship.

2015

The tournament was staged in South Africa’s North West province and at long last produced a fifth different winner as Namibia claimed a maiden triumph. And they did it the hard way, going through the first-round pool stages and then the knockout format to play six games in 14 days.

2016

Following their win, the previous year, there was another ‘first’ for Namibia as they hosted the tournament as champions. South Africa would join Zambia and Zimbabwe on four wins each as they defeated Botswana 3-2 in the final.

2017

Zimbabwe claimed a record fifth title and did it in style as well, scoring an impressive 19 goals in their six games on the way to the championship.

The matches were staged in Phokeng and Moruleng in South Africa’s North West province, with Zimbabwe starting in the first-round group stage and powering their way into the final, where they defeated ‘old enemy’ Zambia 3-1.

2018

Either Zambia or Zimbabwe will lift the cup in today’s final of a tournament that had all the 14 members of the regional body. Malawi News/Cosafa.

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