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Young Warriors in tough group

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National Under-20 soccer team coach Taurai Mangwiro is uneasy over the group his team was handed in the Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships draw that was held in Gaborone, Botswana on Tuesday afternoon.

Botswana will host the games billed for December for the second successive year.

The Young Warriors who were narrowly beaten 1-0 in the semi-finals in last year’s edition of the competition by eventual winners Zambia were drawn in Group D which has last year’s finalists Namibia, Madagascar and Angola.

Mangwiro — although remaining optimistic of an improved performance from last year — is anticipating a very tough tournament.

“It’s a fair draw, but as you know we no longer have small team or underdogs in soccer. You can bear testimony to even our Premier Soccer League. This is the new trend in Africa and the world over. There is no team which is regarded small. We have seen big teams being beaten by the so-called small teams. Last year we played Madagascar and beat them 3-1, but it was a very tough match for us, we had to dig deeper to get a result. On paper Namibia still remain the weakest team, but that does not mean they will be an easy team to play against. Namibia were in the final last year while Angola have been to the semi-finals and final in the past years which speaks volumes for the two teams. All the teams in our group are very tough, but with proper preparations I think we will do very well compared to last year,” said Mangwiro.

Hosts Botswana are in Group A with Comoros, Swaziland and Mozambique. In Group B, the Seychelles will lock horns with Malawi and Lesotho in the only group that consists of three countries. There is however concern over Malawi’s availability, with travel bans imposed on all national teams following political unrest in that country.

There is hope however for the organising committee that the situation will be solved before the start of the tournament.

Group C consists of defending champions Zambia who will battle it out with South Africa, Mauritius and Tanzania.

Tanzania are the newcomers this year after Cosafa extended an invitation to them.

The top four teams in each pool advance to the semi-finals, which will then be played in a round-robin format.

The Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships have long been a nursery for talent for the region.

Zimbabwe has had their fair share of top players come through the tournament.

Current senior national team stars like Knowledge Musona, Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiat and Tafadzwa Rusike are some examples.

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