Zimbabwe coach Tafadzwa Mashiri faces a tough decision when naming his final squad for the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship that will take place in Nelson Mandela Bay from November 19-29.
Mashiri will be hoping to guide Zimbabwe to the final of the competition, which will earn them a berth at the 2021 African Under-17 Cup of Nations that is due to take place in Morocco next year.
They have been drawn in Group A alongside Angola, who they meet in the opening game of the tournament on Nov. 19, as well as hosts South Africa (Nov. 21) and Eswatini (Nov. 24).
The top two teams advance to the semifinals, which will be played on Nov. 27, with the final two days later.
Mashiri has been in camp with his provisional squad, which includes some of the top young talent in the country.
For all their prowess as a regional powerhouse, Zimbabwe have only made the final of the COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship on one occasion, when they lifted the trophy in 2007.
They reached the semifinals in 1994 after starting with a 0-0 draw against Lesotho, but following that up with a win over Botswana (1-0) and a draw with Mozambique (2-2), which proved enough.
They lost 5-1 to South Africa in the semifinal though, and were beaten 1-0 by Zambia in the bronze-medal match.
They exited in the first round in 2001 after a 1-0 loss to South Africa and a 3-2 victory over Namibia, and did not compete in 2002.
Their crowning glory came in the 2007 competition as they topped their pool wins win over Angola (2-1) and Eswatini (3-1), that had followed a 1-1 draw with Namibia.
They defeated Zambia 5-4 on penalties in the semifinals after a 1-1 draw, and then edged South Africa on spot-kicks (4-2 after a 1-1 draw) in the decider.
The team did not compete in 2016 and lost all three pool matches in 2017, going down to Mauritius (1-0), Malawi (5-0) and Botswana (2-1).
It was a similar story in 2018 as they lost to Eswatini (3-2), Malawi (5-0) and Angola (2-1), and the team did not compete in 2019.
It means their last outright win (without penalties) in this competition was 13 years ago in the pool stages against Eswatini (3-1).
Provisional Zimbabwe squad:
Goalkeepers: Joseph Kaunda (Hwange Academy), Blessed Sibanda (FC Platinum), Ronald Panashe Uraya (PE Academy)
Defenders: Malvern Mareverwa (Aces Youth Academy), Arthur Nyamupfukudza (Aces Youth Academy), Malvern Soko (Aces Youth Academy), Pound Nyasha Brendon (PE Academy), Nigel Musamisa (Majesa Academy), Dylan Tanaka Ndoro (Pamushana High School), Anotida Kingley Chikwati (Pamushana High School), Angelo Tanatswa Sakasasu (Visionaries), Miriraishe Mupindu (Visionaries), Carlos Prosperity Gwaze (PE Academy), Thomas Gutsa (Rusununguko High School), Claivert Tshuma (Twenty 63 Academy)
Midfielders: Hermish Charlie (LegendsAcademy), Kudzwayiishe Chikumba (Friendly Academy), Stephen Chatikobo (PE Academy), Leon Takunda Mukonya (Majesa Academy), Perezo Enasio (Pamushana High School), Nyengera Kingsley Tatenda (Pamushana High School), Muzengeza Keith (Visionaries), Tinotenda Mhetura (Friendly Academy), Alfa Chiwashire Chiwashire (Friendly Academy), Junior Happi (Aces Youth Academy), Tapiwa Chakuchichi (BN Academy), Alvin Dube (Twenty 63 Academy), Talent Mwenga (Twenty 63 Academy)
Strikers: Denzel Mapuwa (Legends Academy), Dean Chamutinya (Legends Academy), Luke Musikiri (PE Academy), Frank Lungu (Hwange Academy), Mutazi Tinomuziva (Gweru), Gumbe Dylan (Twenty 63 Academy), Chikwanga Denzel (Twenty 63 Academy), Munakandafa Luther (Chiredzi Academy)