The line-up is complete for the 2018 MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships after Namibia were confirmed as the 12th team that will compete in Kitwe, Zambia from December 2-14.
Namibia did not compete in 2016, but returned last year and narrowly missed out on a place in the semifinals after being to a 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe in their final pool match.
They join an exciting field ahead of the first-round draw, which will take place in Kitwe on Wednesday, October 31, where the 12 sides will be places in three pools each containing four sides.
The top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up will advance to the semifinals.
Champions South Africa will return to defend the title they won in Kitwe last year and will be among the pre-tournament favourites, though they will likely bring a much-changed side.
Hosts Zambia were disappointed not to lift the trophy last year, especially after their magnificent success in 2016 and the admirers from around the world they collected in competing at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
Zimbabwe are six-time winners of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships but their last win came all the way back in 2007 and they will be itching to lift the trophy again. The last two years have seen them surprisingly exit in the first round, though in 2017 they went through the pool stage unbeaten and were unlucky to miss out on goals scored.
Last year’s finalists Lesotho will be back to have another go at a first COSAFA Under-20 Championships title win, after they impressed in Kitwe before going down 2-1 in the final against South Africa.
Angola finished third in 2016 but lost out in the first-round last year and return to try and put that right in 2018, while Botswana are back in the field after they missed out on competing 12 months ago.
Malawi have always been strong competitors at this age-group level and will likely be among the contenders again, while Mauritius will want to make up for losing all three games in 2017.
Mozambique were competitive in a tough pool last year that included South Africa and North African guest nation Egypt and will want to put that experience to good use.
Swaziland and COSAFA associate member, Reunion, who will appear at a regional championship for the first time in their history, make up the remainder of the field.
Zambia are 11-time winners of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships, while Zimbabwe and South Africa have six wins each. Madagascar are the only other nation to lift the title after they enjoyed success in 2005, beating Lesotho in the final.