The 2022 COSAFA Cup will return to Durban this year having last been played in the South African coastal city in 2019, as the region’s top nations battle it out for the coveted crown.
The tournament will be staged from July 5-17, providing coaches with an excellent chance to fine-tune their squads ahead of the second set of 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that will take place in September.
So many players have put their hand up in recent COSAFA Cup tournaments and gone on to cement their place in their national side, with perhaps the best example being the South African squad that claimed the trophy in Gqeberha in 2021.
The likes of Rushine de Reuck, Nyiko Mobbie, Ethan Brooks and Yusuf Maart would all use the competition to go on and become regulars for the side in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
That was a fifth regional title for Bafana Bafana as they edged west African guest nation Senegal in the final with a victory on penalties.
It was the third time a team had claimed the trophy via spot-kicks, with Angola the first to do so in 2004 when they edged Zambia 5-4 after a 0-0 draw.
South Africa also needed penalties to beat Zambia in 2007 with a 4-3 win after that final also finished 0-0.
The 2021 tournament was also a triumph for Eswatini as they picked up the bronze medal with a 4-2 shoot-out win over Mozambique as their third-place play-off ended 1-1.
Bafana’s victory moved them level with Zambia on five tournament wins since the COSAFA Cup was first played in 1997, but they are both one behind overall leaders Zimbabwe, who have six wins.
As things stand, Zimbabwe will not be on hand to compete for the title this year after their suspension by FIFA prohibits them from taking part in any football activities.
However, should that suspension be lifted, they will be welcomed to the tournament with open arms, having had such a rich history in the COSAFA Cup down the years, and provided so much quality talent for the region.
The draw for the 2022 tournament is penciled in for May 31, when the final line-up will be announced, and the teams learn their fate on the road to lifting the trophy.
The 20 previous editions of the competition have seen some great performances and incredible games that have been written into the folklore of Southern African football, but only five nations can claim to have lifted the coveted trophy.
Aside from Zimbabwe (six wins), Zambia (five) and South Africa (five), Angola (three) and Namibia (one) are the only other teams to claim glory.
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana have all been finalists twice, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions. Lesotho (2000) are the only other COSAFA team to reach the decider, with Senegal being the first guest nation to do so last year.
The invited guests bring another flavour to the competition and over the years there have been some top teams.
Aside from silver medalists Senegal (2021), we have also had Tanzania (1997, 2015 and 2018), who picked up bronze four years ago, as well as Kenya (2013), Ghana (2015), DR Congo (2016) and Uganda (2019) grace the competition.
We are excited to be able to welcome fans and the media back for this year’s competition after they missed out on 2021 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While that pandemic is still with us, sporting events in South Africa may have fans attend up to a maximum of 50% of the venue capacity. Fans must also either be fully vaccinated or produce a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.
All matches in this year’s competition will also be broadcast to a global audience via www.cosafa.tv.