Uganda vs Zambia 6.30pm
Kitwe, Zambia | THE INDEPENDENT | The 2017 Mopani Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships kicks off as the newest batch of young hopefuls in this age-groups seeks to add their name to the trophy.
Hosts Zambia, who are also African football champions, will be among the heavy favourites, but they begin their campaign with a virtual new group of players as the country looks ahead to the 2019 African Youth Championships.
Zambia will take on East African guest nation Uganda in their Group A opener at the Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe. All the COSAFA Under-20 Championships matches are live on Kwese Free Sports.
The Uganda U-20 team the Hippos arrived in Zambia on Monday. “The players are in good shape and ready to play the hosts Zambia,” said captain Muhammed Shaban ahead of today’s opener.
Shaban leads a team of 20. The others on the team are goalkeepers Eric Kibowa, Keni Saidi, Ali Mwerusi while the outfield players are Fred Okot, Andrew Okiringi, Mustapha Kizza, Victor Matovu, Mustapha Mujjuzi, Geofrey Wasswa, Abubaker Muhammed Kasule, Julius Poloto, David Owori, Pius Obuya, Frank Tumwesigye, Shafiq Kagimu, Allan Okello, Mujahid Baden, Steven Mukwala, Hamis Tibita
The home side have included highly-rated fullback Edward Chilufya of Swedish club Djurgardens in their squad as the only survivor from last year’s winning team.
“He is the only player still eligible to play in the next U20 AFCON qualifiers so he is part of this team,” Coach Mumamba Numba told reporters. “We thought that since he was in the country, and we had an injury, we needed to replace someone that is why we brought him to join his colleagues.”
Zambia have been the most successful side in COSAFA Under-20 Championships history with 11 titles, followed by Zimbabwe (six wins), South Africa (five) and Mozambique (one).
Also in action on the opening day are Swaziland and Malawi, who contest the first game of the tournament in a Group A clash at the same venue.
Both sides would be considered outsiders for the title, but Malawi in particular have found some joy in this competition in the past.
The first game in Group B will also be played as Mozambique tackle North African guest nation Egypt at 3.30pm.
Egypt will bring technical excellence and structure, while Mozambique are known as a more flamboyant side that relies heavily on its skilful players.
Only the top team in each pool advances to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up.
The semifinals will be played on December 14, with the third-place play-off and final to be staged in Ndola on December 16.