The 2023 HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Cup gets under way on Wednesday, 5 July, at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban with the potential for a new champion to be crowned in the 12-team regional showpiece event.
Zambia go into the competition as defending champions after they secured a record-equaling sixth title at the same venue in 2021, but they will face stiff competition this time round as they look to go back-to-back.
The opening match of the tournament is a Group A clash between Eswatini and Botswana (kick-off 15h00 CAT). Eswatini will be hoping for a first ever COSAFA Cup win over The Zebras, having drawn two and lost three of their previous five meetings. They only scored a single goal in that time.
Hosts South Africa take on Namibia in the second clash of the day at 18h00 CAT at the same venue.
The Brave Warriors have twice before dumped Bafana out of the COSAFA Cup, though both instances were some time ago.
The era of current coach Collin Benjamin, Ricardo Mannetti and Congo Hindjou beat Bafana 3-2 in the 1998 tournament for a famous win in Windhoek, and then knocked them out again on penalties the next year following a 1-1 draw.
Bafana have won the four matches in this competition since then, so maybe have long put those setbacks behind them.
“Every player we requested is in camp,” coach Morena Ramoreboli said. “Honestly speaking, these are the kind of tournaments that play an important role in the rankings of Bafana Bafana and we should try our level best to win and compete, and I think it is the right opportunity for us to perform well and get positive results.
“The technical team and the manager have done well in ensuring that the team’s preparations are well managed ahead of the tournament. We played a practice match in Pretoria against North West University before departure to Durban and it was a really good match.
“Yes, we wanted to activate and prepare for the tournament, which I think helped with this practice match and gave us what we wanted.”
The 21 previous editions of the COSAFA Cup 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 and Zambia are locked together on six wins each, with South Africa (five), Angola (three) and Namibia (one) the only other teams to claim regional glory.
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana have all been finalists twice, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions. Lesotho (2000) are the only other COSAFA team to reach the decider, with Senegal the first guest nation to do so in 2021.
The COSAFA Cup kicks-off a busy calendar of events for COSAFA in the second half of 2023 with as many as nine tournaments planned between now and the end of the year.
All matches will be streamed live to a global audience on FIFA+