Hosts Zimbabwe will be among the leading nations at the 2017 COSAFA women’s Championship and coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda says she is pleased with how their preparations have gone to date.
Zimbabwe are the defending champions and will aim for a second successive title in the finals this year that will be played in Bulawayo from September 13-24.
The Mighty Warriors have been drawn in Group A alongside old foes Zambia, Madagascar and Malawi, and have been hard at work in the build-up to the regional showpiece event.
“Even though I would have wanted friendly matches before the team convened for the final camp, I am happy with the way things have gone so far,” Sibanda was quoted by NewsDay.
“The major boost is that the tournament comes at a period when the players have been playing regularly in the league.”
Sibanda says they have covered a lot of ground in training and have been trying to improve the team in all aspects. “We are improvising by integrating the training of both the physical aspects of the game and the technical and tactical side.”
The coach adds that while they have full respect for all opponents, they do not fear the pool they have been drawn in for the tournament.
“We expected to be grouped alongside any participating team, thus, we are going to prepare the same way for every team that we are going to face, without necessarily focusing on the name of the opponent.
“We have played Zambia before, with varying degrees of success, but all that is in the past now and this time it will be a completely different game.”
But she admits that they cannot afford to let their guard drop just because they are playing at home.
“We have to guard against complacency if we are to do well,” she said.
East African guest nation Kenya head up Group B, where they will face Mauritius, Mozambique and Swaziland in another pool that will be tough to predict.
Three-time winners South Africa are in Group C along with neighbours Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.
The first COSAFA Women’s Championship was held in Zimbabwe in 2002 and was won by South Africa, who beat their hosts 2-1 in the final.
Four years later and the South Africans triumphed again at the finals in Zambia, when they beat Namibia 3-1 in the decider. South Africa then made it three in a row when they beat Zimbabwe in the finals of the 2008 tournament in Malange, Angola.
But Zimbabwe will be defending the title they won last time the tournament was played in 2011, when they also acted as hosts. They defeated South Africa 1-0 in the final.