Last 4 look to final place

The semifinals of the 2011 COSAFA Women’s Championship will be held at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare on Thursday and have served up two eagerly-anticipated ties.

Defending champions South Africa will take on Malawi in the first semifinal at 12h30, before host nation Zimbabwe meet East African guests Tanzania at 15h15.

The winners will advance to Saturday’s grand final also at the Rufaro Stadium, while the losers on Thursday will play for the bronze medal in the third-place play-off before the tournament decider.

Zimbabwe coach Rosemary Mugadza was pleased with her side’s 3-0 victory over Mozambique on Tuesday, and says her team are ready for the business end of the tournament as they prepare to take on the Tanzanians.

“I’m very happy with the performance of the team so far and I hope we will carry on like that in the remaining games,” Mugadza said. “Tanzania are a very strong side, they have a mobile midfield and a good strike force but we have done our homework and we are ready for them.

“We want to win this trophy at all costs, I hope we will meet South Africa in the finals so that we can see where we are before we go for the All Africa Games in two months’ time.”

Tanzania coach Charles Boniface Mkwanza was disappointed with his side’s 1-0 loss to South African in their final Group B game on Tuesday, but says his team have a plan for the Zimbabweans.

“It will be very difficult in the semi-finals because we are playing the hosts. We noticed that they use their striker who wears the number three jersey [Rufaro Machingura] a lot so we have to contain that player and see what will happen,” Mkwanza said.

South Africa have won 10 of the 11 matches they have played under coach Joseph Mkhonza since he took over the reins of the side following the 2010 African Women’s Championships. And they remain the team to beat here, having won the three previous installments of the competition in 2002, 2006 and 2008.

Mkhonza has been pleased with the performance of his players in this tournament and is expecting more on Thursday.

“Our defence has conceded just one goal in three outings at this tournament and that was a mistake from one of our midfielders, not one of our defenders. So our rear-guard is handling the pressure really well and our midfield is settling in well on creating scoring chances for our strikers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s coach Richard Chipungu praised the fight of his players as they beat Lesotho 5-2 on Tuesday to book their semifinal spot. He is now predicting a “cracker” against the South Africans.

“I’m glad we managed to reach the semis. Lesotho had a better chance going into the match as they only needed a draw while we needed a victory, but we managed to turn it around in the second half,” Chipungu said.

“The match with the South Africans is going to be a cracker. They are the defending champions and they won’t let the title go easily, but we will fight on until the last minute.”

South Africa and Malawi have met just once at the COSAFA Women’s Championship before, with Banyana Banyana running out 3-0 winners in 2006.

Meanwhile, the race for the Golden Boot is on with Zimbabwean Rufaro Machingura leading the way. Her total of seven goals is boosted by the five she scored against Malawi on Monday as the Zimbabweans ran out 8-2 victors.

Second on the list is Lesotho’s Boitumelo Rabale with five goals, though she will play no further part in the competition, while South Africa’s Noko Matlou, Malawi’s Linda Kasenda and Tabitha Chawinga, as well as Amelia Banze from Mozambique, all have three goals.