|Lesotho starts it 2018 COSAFA Cup in the quarterfinals against|
Southern Africa’s national teams will converge on Polokwane in the north of South Africa over the next two weeks to decide this year’s COSAFA Cup champion.
In total 14 countries will battle it out at the regional championship which is again expected to be a tightly contested affair.
Zimbabwe, who came through a gruelling schedule last year to win the tournament for a record fifth time, begin the defence of their title in the quarterfinals and are expected to be challenged closely by hosts South Africa and Zambia, who have both won the COSAFA Cup on four previous occasions.
The COSAFA Cup starts with eight teams divided into two groups for the opening week of competition with the two group winners then advancing to the knockout stage where they are joined by the top six ranked nations.
The tournament will kick-off on Sunday with a Group A clash between Madagascar and Mozambique, who have both threatened to upset the odds at recent tournaments, before an island derby between the Comoros Islands and Seychelles.
Angola, who have won the competitions three times, head a strong field in Group B where they must get past Botswana and Malawi, both previous runners-ups, and Mauritius.
The schedule is taxing one for the eight first round competitors who play a game every second day with only the group winner advancing.
|The tournament starts on Sunday with a clash between Mozambique|
There are two matches scheduled for every day from Sunday through to next Friday in the first round with the games played at both the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in the centre of Polokwane and the Seshego Stadium, on the outskirts of the city.
The winner of Group A has been drawn against South Africa in the quarter-finals on next week Sunday (June 3) while Group B’s winner will take on Zimbabwe later on the same day. Before that the first two quarterfinals will take place next Saturday (June 2). They will see Zambia face the 2015 winners Namibia followed by Lesotho taking on Swaziland.
It is the first time in 10 years that all 14-member nations are competing as the Comoros return to the field for the first time in 2008.
“Looking at the squads selected, this promises to be a very tough competition,” said Timothy Shongwe, COSAFA’s chairman of competitions.
“The countries are all coming with top teams and it is difficult to see who is going to come out on top.”