South Africa/Angola: Team-By-Team Guide to the 2019 Cosafa Women's Championship

The 2019 COSAFA Women's Championship will be staged in South Africa's Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality for the second year running from July 31-August 11 with what is arguably the most exciting line-up of sides ever to grace the competition.

The draw for the competition will be staged on Wednesday when the teams will learn their fate in the first round. Here is a team-by-team guide to the 12 teams that will take part in what is the best regional competition for women on the African continent.

ANGOLA

Angola will be appearing at their firstCOSAFA Women's Championship since they finished second at the 2008 finals they hosted. On that occasion they lost 3-1 to a Noko Matlou-inspired South Africa, but they have not been back since and so will be a welcome addition to the line-up in 2019.

Their only other finals appearances was in 2006 when they lost to Zimbabwe in a first round tie that ended up being played over two legs. It was initially a three-team group, but when Mozambique withdrew, Angola and Zimbabwe played two games against one-another, that were won 3-1 and 1-0 by the Mighty Warriors.

Angola have twice before been to the African Women's Championship. In 1995 they reached the semifinals but lost 6-4 on aggregate to South Africa. They appeared again in 2002 but drew two and lost one of their three pool matches and finished third in their pool.

They have not entered the preliminaries since 2010.

BOTSWANA

Botswana have never made the semifinals of the COSAFA Women's Championship, which will be a major aim this year. The Lady Zebras had a long wait to win their first match at the finals having featured at the inaugural tournament in 2002, and then again in 2008 and 2011, but in 2017 broke their duck with a 3-0 success over Lesotho.

They also managed draw against eventual champions South Africa, but it was not enough to advance from their pool as they finished second. Last year they beat Malawi 2-0 in their opener, but a 1-0 loss to South Africa and a 0-0 draw with Madagascar meant there was no progress to the knockout stages.

It still shows a vast improvement from the early days of the national team, when they lost 14-0 to the South Africans in their first international in 2002, which was in Harare at the COSAFA Women's Championship. The country has not yet qualified for a major championship, having entered the preliminaries for the last two FIFA Women's World Cup finals, and for the African Women's Championship since 2008.

Keitumetse Dithebe of Botswana challenged by Valeria Tanatswa Padery of Zimbabwe

COMOROS ISLANDS

Comoros Islands will be entering the COSAFA Women's Championship for the first time, adding greatly to the entrants this year as they bring their island style of football.

Growth in the women's game has been slow in the country, but is picking up pace and they will be keen to showcase their quality in the regional championship.

The country entered the preliminary competition for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup, their first appearance, but after a 13-0 loss to powerhouse South Africa in the first leg of their qualifier, did not fulfil the return fixture.

They then did not enter the preliminaries for the 2019 World Cup, and have also not entered the qualifiers for the African Women's Championship.

ESWATINI

Eswatini featured in the early days of the COSAFA Women's Championships but were not present in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality when the tournament was played last year.

They will return in 2019 though and will be eager to showcase their improvement in recent years, and how the game has grown in the country.

They claimed a 3-0 win over Botswana in their second match in 2002, but also lost out to Mozambique (0-2) and South Africa (0-4) to end third in their pool. They were back at the finals in 2016, but this time lost to Namibia (0-6) and Zambia (0-7) in what was a difficult campaign.

They skipped the 2011 tournament but returned for the 2017 finals in Zimbabwe, where a 3-0 win over Mauritius was followed by a 2-2 draw with Mozambique. They were denied a first ever place in the semifinals though after a 1-0 loss to East Africa guest nation Kenya.

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.

MADAGASCAR

Madagascar will feature at the COSAFA Women's Championships for the third time having missed the first four instalments of the regional showpiece competition with the country only recently having played their first official international.

Their first official FIFA-sanctioned game was a 3-1 loss to Botswana in the qualifiers for the African Women's Championships in 2015, though other selections did play matches before that.

The team have steadily improved since then and finished runners-up at the 2015 Indian Ocean Games, losing in the decider to Reunion. In 2017 they had a tough introduction to the COSAFA Women's Championship, losing all three of their matches to Zimbabwe (0-4), Malawi (3-6) and Zambia (1-7). But they proved more competitive in 2018, drawing with Botswana (0-0_ and suffering narrow defeats to South Africa (1-2) and Malawi (0-2).

They will hope to show further improvement this year, starting with a first ever victory in the regional finals.

MALAWI

Malawi played their first ever international at the 2002 COSAFA Women's Championships, but were on the receiving end of an 8-0 loss to hosts Zambia at that tournament. They beat Lesotho 3-0 in their next game to record a first win, but failed to reach the knockout stages.

They defeated Lesotho by the same scoreline at the 2006 COSAFA Women's Championships, but a 3-0 loss to South Africa ended their semifinal hopes.

Malawi did reach the knockout stages when the tournament was played in 2011, finishing second in their pool, but came unstuck against the South Africans again with a 5-1 semifinal loss. They eventually finished fourth after losing 3-0 to East African guest nation Tanzania in the bronze medal play-off match.

The side had a mixed competition in 2017, losing to Zambia (3-6), drawing with Zimbabwe (3-3) and claiming a handsome win over Madagascar (6-3) to finish third in the pool with four points. It was also mixed success in 2018, with a 2-0 win over Madagascar tempered by a loss to Botswana by the same scoreline and a 6-0 hammering from South Africa.

MAURITIUS

Mauritius played their first official senior women's match in 2012 and so missed all four of the previous COSAFA Women's Championships in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2011.

They finally made their debut on the senior stage in 2017 in Zimbabwe, where they had a tough baptism of fire.

After an opening 3-0 loss to Eswatini, they were humbled 11-0 by East Africa guest nation Kenya and then lost 3-0 to Mozambique.

It was a steep learning curve for the side, but one they will hope to use as motivation to do better in this year's tournament in South Africa after they again skipped the 2018 edition.

MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambique appeared at the very first COSAFA Women's Championships in 2002 and excelled, reaching the semifinals before they were handed an 11-1 defeat by hosts Zimbabwe in the knockout round.

They have not managed to match that feat since, but can look back with pride on victories over Eswatini (2-0) and Botswana (7-1) in those inaugural championships.

They also competed in the regional showpiece finals in 2011, but managed just a single point in the pool stages.

They had mixed success in 2017, losing to East African guest nation Kenya (2-5), drawing with Eswatini (2-2) and beating Mauritius (3-0). The team beat Lesotho 2-1 at the championships in 2018, but also lost to Zambia (0-3) and Central African guest nation Cameroon (1-8) to bow out at the pool stages.

They have twice before entered the qualifiers for the African Women's Championships, but failed to reach the 2006 and 2012 continental finals. Their first ever international was a 3-0 win over Lesotho in 1998, with their biggest victory a 9-0 defeat of Namibia in 2006.

NAMIBIA

Namibia have four previous appearances at the COSAFA Women's Championships when they turned out in 2006, 2008, 2017 and 2018, and have largely excelled in the regional showpiece competition. The Brave Gladiators have always been tough competitors in the past and the same will be expected when they feature in South Africa again in 2019.

In their first showing in 2006 they claimed an excellent 2-2 draw with Zambia and then thumped Eswatini 6-0 in the pool stages, enough to see them into the semifinals as runners-up in their group.

They gained revenge over Zambia with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after a 1-1 draw, but lost in the final to South Africa when they went down 3-1. They reached the semifinals again two years later, but this time were ousted at that stage by South Africa, ironically by the same scoreline.

They had less success in 2017, beating Botswana 4-0 in their opener, but then losing 2-1 to Lesotho and once again suffering a 3-1 loss to South Africa to finish bottom of their pool.

Last year they beat Eswatini 4-1, but a defeat to Zimbabwe (0-1) a draw with East African guest nation Uganda (0-1) meant they did not progress to the knockout stages.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa are five-time winners of the COSAFA Women's Championship and will be the defending champions after claiming the title again last year when the competition was staged in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipilaity.

They stormed to the 2002 title, beating Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final as they won all five of their games, scoring 36 goals in the process. That included huge victories over Botswana (14-0) and Mozambique (13-0) in the pool stages.

It was more of the same in 2006 as they won both group stages games against Lesotho (9-0) and Malawi (3-0), before a 4-1 victory over Zimbabwe in the semifinals. They beat Namibia 3-1 in the final to pick up gold.

A clash of fixtures meant they sent an Under-20 side to the 2008 championships, but still won all of their games, including a 3-1 victory over hosts Angola in the final. But their run was ended by Zimbabwe in the decider in 2011, leaving them with a record of 26 wins from 29 games in the COSAFA Women's Championships.

They regained their title in 2017 as wins over Lesotho (3-0) and Namibia (3-1) saw them into the knockout stages, where they came from 3-0 down with 13 minutes remaining to draw 3-3 with Zambia and win on penalties.

That set up a final with Zimbabwe, where South Africa ran out 2-1 winners. They had to do it the hard way again in 2018 as wins over Madagascar (2-1), Botswana (1-0) and Malawi (6-0) in the pool stages was followed by a 2-0 success over East African guest nation Uganda in the semifinals and a 2-1 victory over Central African guests Cameroon in the decider.

The side will be fresh from competing at their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup having taken part in the 2019 installment in France, the first COSAFA nation to reach the global showpiece event.

ZAMBIA

Zambia have enjoyed a recent return to form having qualified for the 2014 and 2018 African Women's Championships and will want to continue that upward curve at this year's COSAFA Women's Championships.

The Shepolopolo have three times before been bronze medallists in the regional showpiece competition, most recently in 2017, but have yet to lift the coveted trophy and that will be a genuine aim of theirs in 2019. They played in the inaugural competition in 2002 when wins over Malawi (8-0) and Lesotho (3-1) saw them into the semifinals, where they lost 3-1 to South Africa. They beat Mozambique 1-0 to take the bronze medal.

The side topped their pool in 2006 as they drew 2-2 with Namibia and beat Eswatini 7-0, but this time were edged in a penalty shoot-out by the Namibians after a 1-1 draw. They beat old foes Zimbabwe 2-1 to take the bronze again. The side could not replicate that in 2008 and in 2011 were surprisingly ousted in the pool stages.

They did reach the semifinals in 2017, topping a pool that also includes Malawi (6-3), Zimbabwe (1-1) and Madagascar (7-1), but let a 3-0 leading slip against South Africa in the final 13 minutes to lose on penalties. They then beat East African guest nation Kenya via spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw to seal the bronze medal.

Zambia again breezed through the pool stages in 2018, but came unstuck with a 1-0 loss to Central African guest nation Cameroon in the semifinals, before a loss by the same scoreline to East African guest nation Uganda in the bronze-medal match.

ZIMBABWE

Women's football in Zimbabwe has seen a resurgence in recent years after the side won the Southern African championship in 2011 and also qualified for the Olympic Games football tournament in Brazil in 2016. Zimbabwe, who were runners-up on home soil in the 2017 COSAFA Women's Championship, have always been a competitive side and finally broke their duck in the competition with victory in 2011.

They reached the final in the inaugural competition in 2002, but lost to South Africa 2-1 in the decider in Harare. They had stormed into the decider with four straight wins in which they scored a staggering 36 goals, including a competition record 15-0 victory over Lesotho in their opener.

They finished top of their pool again in 2006 after two matches against their only pool opponent, Angola, but came unstuck in the semifinals this time with a 4-1 loss to South Africa. They were beaten to third place by Zambia when they went down 2-1 in the bronze medal match.

The 2008 championship in Angola provided little joy, but they finally lifted the trophy in 2011 on home soil when they proved a dominant force again and beat South Africa 1-0 in the final. They could not quite repeat that feat in Bulawayo in 2017 as they took the best runner-up spot in their pool with victory over Madagascar (4-0), and draws with Zambia (1-1) and Malawi (3-3), before walloping East African guest nation Kenya 4-0 in the semifinals.

That set up a final against old foes South Africa, but Zimbabwe finished on the losing side by a 2-1 scoreline.

In 2018 the side failed to make it out of their pool despite two wins over Eswatini (3-0) and Namibia (1-0), their fate sealed by a 2-1 loss to East African guest nation Uganda.

Zimbabwe's best finish at the African Women's Championships was fourth in 2000.

(source: COSAFA.com)

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