There are 11 exciting sides that will take part in the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa from December 3-13. Here is a brief guide to all of them!
Angola will be hoping to make history when they compete at the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships.
The country has never tasted success in the junior version of the regional championship, this despite some excellent success in the COSAFA Cup senior competition.
They have appeared in four finals though, losing three in a row between 2000 and 2002, and then again in 2011 when they went down 2-1 to Zambia.
After finishing fourth in 2016, Angola disappointed by their own high standards in 2017 when they picked up just a single point from their three games to finish bottom of Group C.
They finished third in 2018, reaching the semifinals as runners-up in Group C, but then lost 1-0 to eventual winners South Africa in the semifinals.
The team claimed the bronze medal though with a 2-1 success over home side Zambia.
And it would be a repeat in 2019 as they waltzed through their group with three wins, including 8-0 versus Seychelles, but lost 3-0 to Zambia in the semifinals. The consolation was a 5-1 victory over Madagascar in the bronze medal match.
Angola have always been known as a fine producer of young talent, many of whom make their way to Portugal and other parts of Europe. They have appeared at the finals of the African Under-20 Championships on six previous occasions and were champions in 2001 when they defeated Ghana in the finals that were played in Ethiopia. That team had the likes of Gilberto and Mantorras, who would go on to have stellar senior careers.
Their other five appearances at the continental showpiece have been less successful, all ending in exits before the knockout stages. Their last appearance was all the. way back in 2005.
The Young Zebras have been regular participants in the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships despite missing the tournament in 2017 and still seek a first ever trip to the final.
Botswana’s best finishes in this competition came in 2009 and 2011 when they managed third place.
First they beat Madagascar 3-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the bronze-medal play-off in 2009. The Young Zebras had made it through their pool but lost 3-0 to South Africa in the semifinals.
They then hosted in 2011 and this time lost to Zambia in the semifinals before beating Malawi to bronze.
In 2016 the side lost all three of their pool games without scoring a goal, while in 2018 they claimed four points from three games with a victory over Lesotho, a draw with Angola and defeat to Zimbabwe.
It was the same in 2019, where a 5-0 loss to hosts and eventual champions Zambia was followed by a draw with Malawi (2-2) and a win over Comoros (2-1).
The side have never qualified for the Africa Under-20 Championships, which will be a target of theirs in the coming years.
Comoros Islands made a return to the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship last year for the first time since 2016, and now celebrate 13 years since their debut at this age-group level.
The team made their bow in 2007 when they exited in the first round, and were set to play in 2009, but withdrew from the event. It was a similar story in 2010 when the side did not participate, and it was only in 2016 when they made their return to the competition.
They made a comeback in Zambia last year but lost all three games to Malawi (4-0), Zambia (2-0) and Botswana (2-1). They have never before qualified for the Africa Under-20 Championships, no doubt a target for them in the near future.
Eswatini will be hoping to make a big impression at this year’s COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships having exited the competition in the first round for the last 14 tournaments.
They came close last year, earning six points in their pool, but not enough to see them through as the best runner-up behind winners Angola.
A 2-0 in over Mozambique was followed by success against Seychelles by the same scoreline. But a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Angola meant they missed out on the semifinals, even if their performances were vastly improved.
In fact, they did not win a match at the COSAFA Under-20 Championships between 2004 and 2016, a record they finally put right when they beat Botswana 2-0 four years ago. That was still not enough to advance to the knockout stages though as they suffered defeats to South Africa and Lesotho later on in the competition.
They also did not manage a win in 2017, with a draw against East African guest nation Uganda sandwiched by defeats to Malawi and hosts Zambia. It was a similar story in 2018 when they played in a shortened three-team group, but successive 4-0 losses to Mauritius and South Africa saw them exit in the first round.
Their best finish was third place all the way back in 1985 when the country hosted the competition. They made it to within touching distance of the Last 8 in the 1983 African Under-20 Championships but withdrew after losing the first leg 5-1 to Zimbabwe.
Lesotho’s Under-20 side have excelled in the past having qualified for the African Youth Championships in 2011, just their second ever appearance at the tournament.
And they did not disgrace themselves at the continental showpiece event in South Africa either, claiming a draw against eventual semifinalists Mali and losing narrowly to South Africa and Egypt. Lesotho narrowly missed out on the knockout stages in the 2016 COSAFA Under-20 Championships after two wins and a loss in the pool phase meant they finished second in their group.
But they did much better in 2017, topping Group C and beating East African guest nation Uganda in the semifinals, before narrowly going down 2-1 to South Africa in the decider.
They found the going tougher in 2018 when they managed just a point from their three games after losses to Zimbabwe and Botswana, having opened with a draw against Angola.
It was the same story in 2019 as losses to Madagascar (3-0) and South Africa (4-0) came either side of a 2-2 draw with Mauritius.
Lesotho have also made the final of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships before, in 2005, when they lost 1-0 to Madagascar. They are a nation that often punches above their weight and also finished second in the 1990 COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship, as well as third (1995, 1999) and fourth (2003).
Lesotho also reached the quarterfinals of the Africa Under-20 Championship in 1989, to go with their group stages exits in 2005 and 2011.
Malawi finished a credible fourth in the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships tournament in Botswana in 2011 having not played in the previous two installments of the competition, and then did not appear again in 2013.
They returned in 2016, but could not make it past the first round, as a draw and a loss meant they finished second in their three-team pool. They came closer in 2017, gaining five points, but missing out on top spot in their pool on goal-difference to Uganda.
There was more frustration in 2018 as the side finished bottom of their pool with just a single point from three games after losses to Zambia and Central African guest nation DR Congo, and a draw with Mozambique.
They improved in Zambia in 2019, beating Comoros (4-0) in their opener, but a draw with Botswana (2-2) and a loss to the hosts (2-1) meant they did not advance. Malawi have yet to win the regional showpiece competition but did reach the final in 2003 when they lost out to Zambia in the decider.
The side last made it out of their group nine years ago but lost 4-2 to Angola in the semifinals and were then beaten 1-0 by hosts Botswana in the third-place play-off. They did manage third in 1986.
Malawi have qualified for the African Under-20 Championships on one occasion, finishing in the group stages in Ethiopia in 1999 when they lost all three games.
Mozambique are still searching for their first-ever COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championships title having been beaten finalists in 2008. They lost to then hosts South Africa on that occasion but will be hoping to go one better this time round after disappointingly losing out in the first round of the event in the last eight installments.
They did narrowly miss the semifinals in Botswana in 2011, the hosts just pipping them on goal-difference in a three-team pool that also included Eswatini. And in 2016 they finished their three-team pool with two draws and so lost out to Central African guest nation DR Congo for a place in the knockout stages.
In 2017 they returned home early with a single win and two defeats, though they were in a tough pool with eventual champions South Africa and North African guest nation Egypt.
They were unbeaten in 2018 with a victory over DR Congo, and draws with Malawi and Zambia, but there five points were not enough to put them into the next round.
They managed a single win over Seychelles (3-2) in 2019, to go with losses to Eswatini (2-0) and Angola (1-0).
Mozambique may well feel that with their pool of talent back home, which has always been substantial, they should have won the competition by now – or at least advanced past the pool stages on more occasions.
They reached the quarterfinals of the African Under-20 Championship in 1989 but have not played in the competition proper since.
Namibia were in many ways the surprise-package of the 2010 COSAFA Under-20 Championships, making it all the way to the final before losing out to Zambia.
Some of the football that they displayed was simply outstanding and players such as captain Sydney Urikhob have gone on to play in South Africa’s PSL.
It was their best ever result in the tournament, beating their semifinal showing in 2007, but they could not repeat the feat when they competed in 2013. There they managed five points from a possible nine to finish second in their first-round pool behind the powerful South Africans.
Namibia did not compete in the last COSAFA Under-20 Championships held in South Africa in 2016, nor in 2018 and 2019. Their previous showing was in the 2017 competition when they beat Angola 1-0 in their opener, but then lost to Lesotho (2-1) and drew with Zimbabwe (0-0) to exit in the first round.
South Africa have traditionally been one of the powerhouses in the region in Under-20 football and will be looking to regain the crown they lost to Zambia in 2019. They have claimed the competition eight times in all, with their first title coming in 2000. They also hosted the tournament for 11 consecutive years between 1999 and 2009.
They went all the way to the final on home soil in 2016, playing some scintillating football, but lost out to Zambia in the decider with a 2-1 defeat. That was seen as a major disappointment, but they atoned for that with a run all the way to the gold medal in 2017.
After topping their pool with a full haul of nine points, ‘Amajita’ edged North African guest nation Egypt 1-0 in the semifinals. That set up a decider with Lesotho and South African emerged as 2-1 winners to take home the trophy.
They repeated that triumph in 2018, topping their shortened pool with victories over Mauritius and Eswatini, before a 1-0 win over Angola in the semifinals. That set up a final with old foes Zimbabwe and after the match finished 1-1, South Africa claimed the penalty shoot-out 4-3.
They could not make it a hat-trick of titles though as they lost 3-0 in the 2019 final to Zambia. They managed seven points in their first-round pool and then edged Madagascar 5-4 on penalties in the semifinals following a 2-2 draw. They had also drawn 1-1 with the Malagasy in pool play.
The side have qualified for the Africa Under-20 Championships on eight previous occasions, winning the silver medal in 1997. They finished third in 2019, and also have two fourth-place finishes (2009 and 2017).
Zambia are the most successful nation in the COSAFA Under-20 Championship competition with 11 victories in all, their last win coming on home soil in 2019.
It was a commanding performance from the side, who claimed a full haul of nine points in the pool stages, before seeing off Angola 3-0 in the semifinals. That was followed by victory against old foe South Africa by the same comprehensive margin in the decider.
Zambia were also rampant in 2016 as they stormed through that competition and inflicted a 2-1 defeat on their hosts South Africa in the decider. They went on to claim the 2017 Africa Under-20 Championships title on home soil, and also excelled at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May last year.
But the side disappointed in the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship on home soil in 2017, bowing out in the first round after a defeat to East African guest nation Uganda was followed by a draw with Malawi and a win over Eswatini. They did make the semifinals on home soil in 2018 but lost 2-1 to Zimbabwe and were then beaten 2-1 by Angola in the bronze-medal match.
They will now seek to extend their record tally of 11 regional titles, three more than South Africa, and perhaps set a path to another Africa Under-20 Championship appearance.
They have appeared at the tournament on seven previous occasions and apart from their gold medal in 2017, they also finished fourth in 1991, 1999 and 2007.
Zimbabwe will make a return to the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in 2019 having established themselves as a regional powerhouse down the years. The Young Warriors side has been amongst the most successful teams in the history of the competition with six wins in all, the last coming in 2007 when they beat hosts South Africa 3-0 to record a comprehensive final win.
They surprisingly did not fare well in South Africa in 2016 though, going out in the first round with 5-1 loss to Zambia, followed by a 0-0 draw with Malawi. They narrowly missed out on the semifinals in 2017 based on goals scored, with 0-0 draws against Lesotho and Namibia either side of a 1-0 win over Angola.
But as Lesotho had scored one more goal than them in the pool stages, they advanced as the top team in the pool. Zimbabwe fared much better in 2018 though, they finished top of their pool with six points from a possible nine, and then surprised Zambia 2-1 in the semifinals.
They med South Africa in the decider but lost 4-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
The carrot being dangled in front of the Zimbabwean players are the number of scouts from mostly South African clubs who will be at the tournament to look out for new talent from a country that has a long history of sending quality players to play in the South African league.