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Under-17, 20 in tough Cosafa draw

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Patrick Mabedi

Malawi Under-17 and 20 national football teams have been handed tough draws in this year’s Cosafa Youth Championship scheduled for Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, this month and next month, respectively.

Malawi U-20 have been drawn against Zambia for the fourth consecutive year. Namibia and Comoros complete the group whereas Malawi U-17 is in group B alongside holders Zambia, Botswana and Comoros Islands.

Cosafa U-20 group A comprises hosts South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho whereas group C comprises Angola and eSwatini.

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The junior Flames (U-20) will start the group stages against Comoros on December 4 at Wolfson Stadium before meeting Namibia two days later. Malawi will wrap up group stages against Zambia on December 9 at the same venue.

Each group winner will advance to the semifinals and will be joined by the overall best runner-up. Both U-17 and 20 Cosafa Cup will be used as zonal qualifiers for Afcon Youth Championship. Top two teams will qualify for the Africa Youth Championship.

The draw took place at Protea Marine Hotel in Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday ahead of the two competitions.

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Under-17 Cosafa Cup is scheduled for November 19 through to 29 in Nelson Mandela Bay before the Under-20 tournament runs from December 3 to 13 in the same city.

Flames legend Patrick Mabedi will for the first time be in charge of the U-20 whereas Deklerk Msakakuona is expected to lead the U-17 team for the fourth consecutive year.

Malawi U-20 has failed to progress beyond the group stages of the competition. Mabedi and his backroom staff have a daunting task to better previous results and probably guide the junior Flames to the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals next year.

In this group, statistics favour Zambia, having defeated Malawi in recent five matches whereas the junior Flames won once. In 2018 Cosafa Cup, Zambia beat Malawi 2-0 before a 2-1 victory last year.

Mabedi was not readily available for his comment.

Football Association of Malawi (Fam) General Secretary Alfred Gunda said the association was hopeful that the junior Flames would perform better.

“We go there to compete and it is our wish to qualify for the Afcon finals. But we must also understand that all the teams are also eyeing the same so we need a bit of luck,” he added.

Meanwhile, the U-17 national football team is expected to regroup this week after completing Covid-19 tests ahead of the tournament. A total of eight teams will take part in the competition which will see top two teams in each group advancing to the semifinals.

Cosafa U-17 group A comprises South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe and eSwatini. Malawi will start the competition with a tie against Botswana at Gelvandale Stadium on November 20 before facing Zambia two days later at the same venue. The junior Flames will wrap up the group stages against Comoros on November 25 at Isaac Wolfson Stadium.

Last year, U-17 also exited in the group stages when the tournament was hosted in Malawi. Malawi’s best ever finish in the Cosafa Youth Championship was in 2001 as they won it after beating South Africa 3-0. It won bronze medal in 2017 in Mauritius.

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