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COSAFA CUP: ESWATINI U-20S’ BAD RECORD TO CHANGE

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MBABANE – They have an opportunity to rewrite the history books, in as far as Eswatini’s COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships record is concerned.
One win between 2004 and 2016 is all the country can remember about its miserable performance in this youth tournament - it was also still not enough to reach the knockout stages which this year’s team, led by shining Young Buffaloes’ coach Dominic Kunene, must try to achieve despite a very tough group.
In the group, Eswatini is with Angola, Mozambique and its equals Seychelles, who are also out for their second victory since their 2002 inaugural participation.
With the assistance of the COSAFA website, here is a team-to-team guide on group C countries where Eswatini is (The tournament is in Zambia this year from December 4-14);

ESWATINI
Eswatini will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships, having exited the competition in the first round for the last 13 tournaments.
In fact, they did not win a match at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships between 2004 and 2015, a record they finally put right when they beat Botswana 2-0 the following year.
That was still not enough to advance to the knockout stages though, as they suffered defeats to South Africa and Lesotho later on in the competition.
They also did not manage a win in 2017, with a draw against East African guest nation Uganda sandwiched by defeats to Malawi and hosts Zambia.
It was a similar story last year when they played in a shortened three-team group, but successive 4-0 losses to Mauritius and South Africa saw them exit in the first round.

ANGOLA
Angola will be hoping to make history when they compete at the 2019 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships.
The country has never tasted success in the junior version of the regional championship, this despite some excellent success in the COSAFA Cup senior competition.
They have appeared in four finals though, losing three in a row between 2000 and 2002, and then again in 2011 when they went down 2-1 to Zambia.
After finishing fourth in 2016, Angola disappointed by their own high standards in 2017, when they picked up just a single point from their three games to finish bottom of Group C.
They finished third last year, reaching the semi-finals as runners-up in Group C, but then lost 1-0 to eventual winners South Africa in the semi-finals.
The team claimed the bronze medal though with a 2-1 success over home side Zambia.
Angola has always been known as a fine producer of young talent, many of whom make their way to Portugal and other parts of Europe.

SEYCHELLES
Seychelles’ first appearance in the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships came all the way back in 2000 when losses to Zambia (0-3) and Namibia (1-3) saw them ousted in the opening round.
They returned in 2004, but three heavy losses meant a first-round exit, while the following year they lost all four games in a five-team group.
Three more defeats followed in 2007, but the following year they claimed a first ever win with a 4-2 success over Namibia.
That proved a brief glimmer of hope as the side lost both matches in a shortened pool in 2011, and all three matches in 2013 and 2016.
A major aim for the side this year will be to add to their single victory at this level.

MOZAMBIQUE
Mozambique are still searching for their first-ever COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships title having been beaten finalists in 2008.
They lost to then hosts South Africa on that occasion, but will be hoping to go one better this time around after disappointingly losing out in the first round of the event in the last seven instalments.
They did narrowly miss the semi-finals in Botswana in 2011, the hosts just beating them on goal difference in a three-team pool that also included Eswatini.
And in 2016 they finished their three-team pool with two draws and so lost out to Central African guest nation DR Congo for a place in the knockout stages.
In 2017 they returned home early with a single win and two defeats, though they were in a tough pool with eventual champions South Africa and North African guest nation Egypt.
They were unbeaten in 2018 with a victory over DR Congo, and draws with Malawi and Zambia, but the five points were not enough to put them into the next round.

Group C
l     C1 – Angola
l     C2 – Mozambique
l     C3 – Eswatini
l     C4 – Seychelles
(NB: The topping team in each of the three groups of four goes to the semis along with the best runner-up of all groups).

Other groups:
Group A
l     A1 – Zambia
l     A2 – Malawi
l     A3 – Comoros Islands
l     A4 – Botswana

Group B
l B1 – South Africa
l B2 – Lesotho
l B3 – Madagascar
l B4 – Mauritius

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