THE Mighty Warriors have been handed what appears a tough draw for next month’s Cosafa Women Championship to be held in South Africa next month.
BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe, the 2011 winners of the tournament and runners’ up last year, were drawn in Group C, together with Swaziland, Namibia and East African guest nation Uganda.
The draw was conducted in Johannesburg yesterday, with the tournament set for the Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape province, from September 12-22.
The Mighty Warriors have a lot to prove at this tournament, having lost in the finals 2-1 at home against South Africa last year and would be hoping to go one better this year.
They are also desperate to atone for the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2018 Women Africa Cup of Nations underway in Ghana this November‚ and which will serve as qualifiers for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
However, the Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda-coached side would have to be at their best to win the women’s biggest regional tournament, as they face tricky opponents.
All their group opponents look light on paper, but have proved that they can be unpredictable and dangerous.
Take Namibia for example, they have just three previous appearances at the Cosafa Cup, but have always been tough competitors every time and the same will be expected when they feature in this edition.
The Brave Gladiators reached the finals in 2006, losing to South Africa in the finals, having accounted for powerhouses Zambia in the semis.
They reached the semi-finals again two years later, but had little success last year, beating Botswana 4-0 in their opener, before losing to Lesotho and South Africa to finish bottom of their pool.
Uganda are coming to the championships as guests, and they would be meeting Zimbabwe for the first time in almost two decades, with the two teams’ last meeting being at the African Women’s Championship in 2000 which ended in a 2-2 draw.
The side is currently rated number 131 according to the Fifa women’s world rankings, but last year they reached a record number 111, which shows their growing prowess.
Then there is Swaziland, who look like the weakest in the group.
The team made a return to the competition last year, having last participated in 2011.
They have never made it to the knockout stages of the competition, and the best they have achieved at the tournament was a second-place finish in their pool last year.
The side has not been able to enter a team for the qualifiers for the Women’s World Cup and African Women’s Championships since the late 1990s, and have been largely inactive over the last few years.
The other groups will see giants Zambia and another guest Cameroon clash in Group B, which also consist of Lesotho and Mozambique.
Hosts and defending champions South Africa are the top seeds in Group A and they will take on Botswana, Madagascar and Malawi in their bid to reach the semi-finals for the sixth successive time in this competition.
The top team in each pool will advance to the semi-finals along with the best-placed runners-up.