There have been many classic clashes in the last 20 years of the COSAFA Castle Cup, but none more so than these five matches, which for one reason or another have gone down in folklore.
24/1/98 – NAMIBIA 3 SOUTH AFRICA 2
One of the great early moments in the COSAFA Castle Cup came in the second tournament held in 1998 as Namibia stunned South Africa’s FIFA World Cup-bound stars with a 3-2 victory in Windhoek.
The victory made Namibia at the time only the third team from the Southern African region to defeat Bafana Bafana after Zimbabwe and Zambia, and was one of the finest hours for coach Rusten Mogane at the country’s Independence Stadium.
South Africa had not competed in the inaugural COSAFA Castle Cup competition but with the World Cup in France looming, caretaker coach Jomo Sono was eager to give his squad a run.
They arrived in Windhoek for the game on January 24, 1998, with most of their top stars, including emerging teenager Benni McCarthy, Phil Masinga, Mark Fish and Brian Baloyi.
And all appeared to be going to plan as Thabo Mooki put South Africa ahead six minutes before halftime, driving a low shot past home goalkeeper Ronny Kanalelo.
But shortly afterwards Namibia were back level as Bafana Bafana hesitated at the back and 31-year-old Stanley Goagoseb was able to drill the ball into the roof of the net.
South Africa were back in front just past the hour-mark when McCarthy showed some excellent skills to dribble past three defenders and set up Masinga for the easiest of finishes.
It looked as though the visitors had the game sewn up, before Bimbo Tjihero blasted home a free-kick just a minute from the end to make the score 2-2 and send the fixture into extra-time.
The decisive moment of the game came in the 100th minute when Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou dazzled the South African defence with some fast footwork and his cross was met by Berlin Auchumeb to send the home crowd into delirium.
The match was part of a winless run of nine matches for Bafana Bafana that would come to an end at the 1998 African Nations Cup finals … against Namibia.
Sono’s men got some revenge as McCarthy netted four goals in 13 first half minutes at the finals in Burkina Faso to secure a 4-1 success.
So South Africa’s first ever COSAFA Castle Cup tournament was brought to an early end, while Namibia would go on to finish fourth in the final round pool stage that in the first two tournaments decided the winner.
5/5/02 – ZIMBABWE 0 SWAZILAND 2
There are not many sides that travel to Harare and come away with a win in any competition, but it has proven an especially tough venue for teams in the COSAFA Castle Cup.
Going against that grain were the Swaziland side that competed in the 2002 tournament as they faced-off against Zimbabwe in the quarterfinals and came away with a stunning 2-0 victory.
It was one of the great shocks in the early years of the COSAFA Castle Cup and still today remains one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s two-decade history.
At the time it was arguably the biggest victory in the history of the Swaziland national side, who were then ranked number 132 in the world, but came away with a victory against a home team placed 67 positions above them.
It was the first time Swaziland had beaten Zimbabwe and the first away win for the Swazis in six years of competing in the annual southern African championship.
Strikers Siza Dlamini and Sibusiso Dlamini both scored in the second half against a Zimbabwean side featuring five overseas-based professionals in their starting line-up.
Siza Dlamini burst through the midfield and shrugged off several defenders, running half the length of the pitch before chipping over Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini for the opening goal on the hour mark.
Zimbabwe’s English-based captain Peter Ndlovu and striker Benjani Mwaruwari, who back then played in Switzerland with Grasshoppers, carved out several chances for the hosts in the opening 15 minutes.
But as the game progressed Swaziland gained in confidence and sealed a remarkable victory in stoppage time when Sibusiso Dlamini outsprinted the goalkeeper to a loose ball and scored into an empty net from a tight angle.
“It was a disgraceful performance, we have no excuses,’ said Ndlovu afterwards.
Swaziland advanced to the semifinals to meet South Africa, where they were beaten 4-1 by the eventual champions.
19/7/08 – SEYCHELLES 7 MAURITIUS 0
Seychelles have only ever won a single match in the COSAFA Castle Cup competition but it turned out to be one of the greatest days in their football history.
The Pirates found their form in stunning style in their opening match of the 2008 COSAFA Castle Cup as they thumped Indian Ocean rivals Mauritius 7-0 in one of the greatest shocks in the history of the regional championship.
It was not so much that they registered the win, but the manner in which they did it as they tore the Mauritius defence to shreds.
Striker Philip Zialor proved the hero as he bagged four goals, to go with strikes from Colin Laporte, Don Annacoura and Trevor Poiret.
Seychelles only led 2-0 at halftime, but ran riot in the second period as Coach Ulrich Mathiot, who also led the team at the 2015 COSAFA Castle Cup, masterminded their success.
Laporte gave Seychelles the lead on 14 minutes before Zialor got his first with a fine strike.
From then on it became the Zialor show as he bagged two more in an eight-minute spell just after halftime, before getting his fourth goal just before the end.
That came a minute after Poiret had netted for The Pirates, with Annacoura getting his goal midway through the second half.
Zialor had also played in the COSAFA Castle Cup in the three previous years, and would do so again in 2009, but this was the one and only time he found the back of the net.
The win is not the biggest in Seychelles’ history, they grabbed a 9-0 win over minnows the Maldives in 1979.
1/11/09 – ZIMBABWE 3 ZAMBIA 1
Just a few years before Zambia won the 2012 African Nations Cup, their coach Herve Renard was busy building a squad to compete on the continental stage.
This included the squad he brought to the 2009 COSAFA Castle Cup in Zimbabwe, where Chipolopolo would finish runners-up, but the where the seeds of later success would be planted.
Players like captain Hichani Himonde and Stoppila Sunzu excelled at the COSAFA Castle Cup and would go on to play leading roles in Zambia’s continental title.
Much of the Big Match Temperament they needed to lift the Nations Cup could too have come in an epic final of the 2009 COSAFA Castle Cup against hosts Zimbabwe in Harare.
Zambia may have lost 3-1, but it was arguably among the best finals the COSAFA Castle Cup has seen, and could have gone either way.
Renard, a young head coach himself just making his way in the game, will have learnt much from the encounter and cut a disappointed figure on the pitch afterwards, though he was proud of the effort from his players.
It looked as though it would be his day too when 19-year-old Henry Banda put Zambia ahead midway through the first half with a fine shot from just inside the penalty-area.
But Zimbabwe had a lethal frontline led by two players who are still in the national team plans today.
Nyasha Mushekwi, who would surely have achieved much more in his career were it not for crippling injuries, netted from close range to draw Zimbabwe level just three minutes after going behind.
Mushekwi got a second with a header 10 minutes before halftime, before Cuthbert Malajila made sure of the victory with a goal in the second half.
In between there was action at both ends as the teams pushed for a win, but the greater potency of the hosts shone through.
The win took Zimbabwe to four COSAFA Castle Cup titles, at that stage the most won by any nation.
Zambia, and Renard, did get some revenge when they claimed the 2013 final, beating Zimbabwe 2-0 in the final to move to four wins themselves, level with The Warriors.
28/5/15 – MADAGASCAR 2 NAMIBIA 3
Namibia booked their place in the final of the 2015 COSAFA Castle Cup with an epic 3-2 victory over Madagascar in a see-saw semifinal that will forever go down as a classic clash in the competition.
The Brave Warriors would go on to lift the title after a far more routine 2-0 victory over Mozambique, but not before they had to come through a huge test against the Malagasy.
Peter Shalulile got the winner for the Brave Warriors six minutes from time after Namibia had led early on, but then fell behind to two quick-fire goals from the islanders.
Benson Shilongo gave Namibia the lead on 18 minutes with a neat finish, but Sarivahy Vombola, who would end up as top-scorer in the 2015 COSAFA Castle Cup, profited from two defensive errors from the Namibians to turn the tables and make the score 2-1 in Madagascar’s favour.
Namibia did not panic though and Shilongo equalised just past the half-hour mark in what was a frenetic start to the game.
Both sides had their chances after that with Shalulile in particular missing a sitter that he would have scored 99 times out of 100.
He finally did get the winner though when he turned home a cross to send the Namibian squad into rapturous celebration.
Namibia, who hosted the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup, become just the fifth side to win the trophy.
But this was by far their most memorable game on their way to the title win and one of the best in COSAFA Castle Cup history.