The draw for the 2021 COSAFA Cup will be staged in host city Nelson Mandela Bay on Thursday, June 17 as preparations for the historic 20th edition of the regional showpiece competition kick into gear.
The 12-team tournament will take place from July 7-18 and returns after the 2020 edition had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The draw will be live on www.cosafa.tv from 11h00, when the fate of the competing teams will be decided.
And there will be plenty of excitement with the addition of west African powerhouse Senegal to the field this year as they make a guest appearance in what is a landmark tournament for COSAFA.
The COSAFA Cup has, over the years, launched the careers of a number of top stars from the region and continues to be a major driver of football development on and off the pitch for not just players, but also coaches, match officials and administrators.
The competition will take on a new format for 2021 with the 12 teams split into three groups each containing four teams. This ensures each side will play a minimum of three matches.
The top team in each pool, as well as the best second-placed finisher, will advance to the semifinals. There will be no Plate competition.
Senegal is the top-ranked side in Africa and sit at number 22 in the world and will make their debut in COSAFA competition.
Guest nations from outside the region have, over the years, provided excellent entertainment and a contrast in styles that makes for fascinating viewing.
The other 10 sides confirmed so far are no strangers to the COSAFA Cup and include hosts South Africa, defending champions Zambia and record six-time winners Zimbabwe.
Others to have booked their place are Botswana, Comoros Islands, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia. The 12th team will be confirmed in the coming days with a number of interested parties.
Those who are competing in the group stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers that start in September will be eager to use the tournament to fine-tune their preparations for a shot at making the finals in Qatar.
The 19 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.
Zimbabwe (six wins) lead the way, followed by Zambia (five), South Africa (four), Angola (three) and Namibia (one).
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana have all twice been finalists, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions. Lesotho (2000) are the only other team to reach the decider.
COSAFA extends warm thanks to the Eastern Cape Government, who have provided vital support to the 2021 COSAFA Cup that has allowed the competition to go ahead. The province’s commitment to bringing international sport to the region is admirable and should be applauded.
Nelson Mandela Bay has been a proud host to a number of COSAFA events in recent years, though this will be the first time they have hosted the men’s senior tournament.
They have staged the last three COSAFA Women’s Championships with great success, as well as the COSAFA Men’s and Women’s Under-20 Championships, and COSAFA Men’s and Women’s Under-17 Championships.
The world-class infrastructure and passion of local officials to see football played in the Friendly City makes them an excellent partner for COSAFA.