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The draws for the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship and inaugural COSAFA Under-20 Women’s Championship will take place at COSAFA House in Johannesburg on Wednesday, when the 19 competing teams across the two tournaments will learn their fate.
The senior championships will be staged in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality from July 31-August 11, while the Under-20 tournament will run in the same city from August 1-11.
It will be a festival of female football and a superb glimpse into the current state, and future prospects, for women’s football in the Southern African region.
The senior competition will again feature 12 teams this year – Angola, Botswana, Comores, Eswatini, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
South Africa are the defending champions and will arguably be favourites again on home soil, but the likes of Zambia and Zimbabwe will certainly feel they have a strong chance of success.
Angola make a return to the regional finals for the first time in 11 years – and for just their third ever tournament – while Comoros will debut at the tournament as they seek to grow the women’s game in their country.
Madagascar make a third visit to the championship, while Mauritius will feature for a second time after debuting in 2017.
The 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four sides, and play each other in a round-robin format. The top team in each pool will advance to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up, after which the competition reverts to a straight knockout format.
South Africa are five-time winners of the COSAFA Women’s Championship, with the only other successful nation being Zimbabwe, who won on home soil in 2011.
The Under-20 Championship, which will be played for the first time ever, features seven teams who will be making history in Nelson Mandela Bay.
They are Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and East African guest nation Tanzania.These seven sides will be split into two pools, one containing four teams and the other three, with those groups to be decided on a round-robin basis.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinals, as the competition switches to a knockout format.
FIFA have contested a Women’s Under-20 World Cup since 2002, with the event being played every two years, the next scheduled for 2020, though a host has yet to be determined.
No COSAFA nation has ever qualified for the event, but this year’s regional showpiece competition gives them the perfect chance to prepare as they build towards the African qualifiers set for early next year.