Zimbabwe served emphatic notice of their potential to grab a record-breaking fifth COSAFA Castle Cup title with a 4-0 pasting of Mozambique in the opening Group B game at the Moruleng stadium on Monday.
Madagascar also made a winning start to extend their winning streak this year to six games as they overcame fellow Indian Ocean islanders Seychelles 2-0 in the second game of the night as the tournament completed its second day.
But it was a far less convincing win with Ardino Raveloarisona scoring before half-time on the counter attack after Seychelles had missed a golden chance at the other end and Rinjala Raherinaivo adding a second in the 75th minute.
Madagascar struck the woodwork and from the rebound the winger chipped the ball expertly into the back of the net.
For Zimbabwe, Ovidy Karuru scored twice, Ocean Mushure added a third and substitute Blessing Majarira continued his dream week with the last of the goals in stoppage time.
Zimbabwe look to have one of the strongest squads at the competition in the North West Province and so it proved against a youthful Mozambican selection, who were all making their international debuts.
John Takwara’s through ball from midfield set Karuru away for the opening goal in the 44th minute as the Zimbabwe skipper beat the offside trap, rounded the Mozambique goalkeeper Antonio and still had time o deal with a bouncy ball before slotting home.
Zimbabwe had threatened to overwhelm Mozambique with the ferocity of their attacks but the Mambas held out for much longer than expected.
But they were a spent force either second half as Karuru added a second from a corner in the 65th minute and then Mushure fired home a stunning free kick, hit from well outside the penalty area, to make it 3-0 in the 78th minute.
Majarira was brought on for the last 10 minutes having been a surprise selection as he plays in Zimbabwe’s second division where he is top scorer this season.
He repaid the faith of coach Sunday Chidzambwa with a fine finish as he rushed in on goal and picked his spot to score the fourth three minutes into stoppage time at the end.
Zimbabwe should have won by five but Knox Mutizwa was incorrectly ruled offside by Seychelles linesman Hensley Petrousse when he put the ball into the net.
Zimbabwe and Madagascar next meet on Wednesday at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in what should prove an early Group B decider.
The action returns to Group A on Tuesday when Malawi and Mauritius clash in the earlier game at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace at 17h00 (15h00 GMT).
Both sides lost in their openers and if they are to push for a quarterfinal place, then a win is a must with only the top side in each pool advancing to the next stage.
The other match sees Tanzania take on Angola in what is a tasty clash after both eased to wins in their first games.
Angola have brought a powerful squad, but Tanzania looked accomplished too in beating Malawi 2-0. The match kicks-off at 19h30 (17h30 GMT).
Mozambique 0 Zimbabwe 4 (Karuru 43’, 66’, Mushure 77’, Majarira 90+3’)
Madagascar 2 (Raveloarisona 44’, Raherinaivo 75’) Seychelles 0
Malawi vs Mauritius (KO 17h00 local, 15h00 GMT) – Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Angola vs Tanzania (KO 19h30 local, 17h30 GMT) – Royal Bafokeng Stadium
Group A P W D L GF GA Pts
Tanzania 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
Angola 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Mauritius 1 0 0 1 0 1 0
Malawi 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
Group B P W D L GF GA Pts
Zimbabwe 1 1 0 0 4 0 3
Madagascar 1 1 0 0 2 0 3
Seychelles 1 0 0 1 0 2 0
Mozambique 1 0 0 1 0 4 0
Matches played: 4
Goals scored: 9
Biggest victory: Mozambique 0 Zimbabwe 4 (Group B, June 26)
Most goals in a game: 4 – Mozambique 0 Zimbabwe 4 (Group B, June 26)
2 goals – Ovidy Karuru (Zimbabwe), Yahya Ramadhani (Tanzania),
1 – Ardino Raveloarisona (Madagascar), Blessing Majarira (Zimbabwe), Ocean Mushure (Zimbabwe), Augusto Quibeto (Angola), Rinjala Raherinaivo (Madagascar)