The draw for the COSAFA Under-17 Championships to be staged in Mauritius from July 21-30 has thrown up some intriguing clashes as the eight competing teams had their fate revealed on Saturday.
The sides have been split into two pools each containing four sides, with the top two advancing to the semifinals. With defending champions Namibia electing not to participate this year, we will have a new champion.
Hosts Mauritius headline Group A, hoping to improve on their 2016 showing, also on home soil,when they exited in the first round.
They are joined this year in the pool by Zimbabwe, Botswana and Malawi, with the latter the only one of the trio who competed in 2016.
The Young Flames made the semifinals and eventually finished third, beating East African guest nation Kenya in the bronze-medal match.
Last year’s beaten finalists South Africa are in Group B, along with heavyweights Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar.
Zambia stormed through the pool stage last year with three wins from three, but were later disqualified from the competition having been found guilty of fielding two over-age players.
They will want to atone for that error and will be among the pre-tournament favourites given the excellent development structures and fine array of talent they have in the country.
Madagascar lost all three of their matches in 2016, while Mozambique did not compete.
Last year there were 48 goals scored in 16 matches, exactly three per game, while Malawi’s Peter Banda finished as top-scorer with five goals.
2017 COSAFA UNDER-17 CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW