One feature of this year’s COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship will be how teams use the competition to provide a platform for their qualification for the 2021 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations that is scheduled to be hosted in Mauritania.
Although qualification for that tournament will only start next year, teams will be eager to put in place the players and systems that they believe will get them to the continental finals.
It is why competitions like the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship are so vital in terms of providing competitive international football for players and coaches so that they may fine-tune their plans for continental qualifiers.
It is no surprise that South Africa’s success in reaching the last two FIFA Under-20 World Cups is off the back of them winning the COSAFA title for the previous two years.
The finals in Mauritania are scheduled for February 6–18, which means next year’s COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship will also be vital preparation for those teams from the Southern African region who have qualified.
Nine of the 14 COSAFA nations have qualified for the continental finals in the past, with Angola (2001) and Zambia (2017) the only ones to win gold.
South Africa were runners-up in 1997 and won the bronze medal this year, the only other Southern African side to finish in the top three.
Here is a rundown of how the COSAFA teams have fared at the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations, taking into account it was played as a knockout competition until 1991:
Qualified (6): 1983, 1985, 1989, 1999, 2001, 2005
Best finish: Winners (2001)
Qualified (1): 1983
Best finish: First round (1983)
Qualified (3): 1989, 2005, 2011
Best finish: Group Stages (2005, 2011)
Qualified (1): 1999
Best finish: Group Stages (1999)
Qualified (3): 1979, 1993, 1995
Best finish: Group Stages (1993, 1995)
Qualified (1): 1987
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1987)
Qualified (8): 1997, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2017, 2019
Best finish: Runners-up (1997)
Qualified (9): 1985, 1987, 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2007, 2015, 2017
Best finish: Winners (2017)
Qualified (3): 1981, 1983, 1985
Best finish: Quarterfinals (1983, 1985)