The draw for the 2015 COSAFA Cup tournament to be staged in South Africa’s North West province from May 17-30 has thrown up a number of intriguing ties as the region’s finest battle for the prestigious crown.
With West African powerhouse Ghana and East African nation Tanzania joining the field to replace COSAFA sides Angola and Comoros Islands, who will not be competing this year, there will be added razzmatazz to an event picked out by FIFA president Sepp Blatter as the best regional tournament in the world.
The competition will be played in the same format as the 2013 competition that was won by then hosts Zambia, with the eight lowest ranked sides according to the February 2015 FIFA World Rankings playing in the opening group stage.
The teams were split into two pools of four each, with the top side in each pool advancing to the quarterfinals.
Zimbabwe, who have four COSAFA Cup titles to their name, have been draw in Group A and will clash with Namibia and the two island nations of Seychelles and Mauritius.
Group B will also be a hard-fought tussle as Swaziland, Lesotho, Madagascar and Tanzania vie for top spot.
The draw for the knockout stages was also made with a number of top names set to clash.
Ghana must wait to find out who the winner of Group B is before they known their quarterfinal opponent on May 24, while later in the day Mozambique will tussle with Malawi.
Holders Zambia will wait to find out their opponents as they take on the winner of Group A, which could mean a repeat of the last two COSAFA Cup finals that has seen them meet Zimbabwe.
Finally, hosts South Africa will square-up against neighbours Botswana in their quarterfinal on May 25.
The losing quarterfinal sides will enter the plate competition, whose semifinals and final will be played on May 27 & 29 respectively.
The semifinals of the main competition will take place on May 28 and this year’s winners crowned in the final on May 30.
The COSAFA Cup was launched in 1997 and very quickly become one of the most exciting competitions on the African soccer calendar.
The emergence of the COSAFA Cup has also had much to do with the rise to prominence and the growth in strength of the southern region in African soccer.
It has given the COSAFA member countries opportunities to increase their international profile and seek further success on other stages, like that of the African Nations Cup finals and the World Cup finals.
COSAFA is made up of Angola, Botswana, the Comoros Islands, Lesotho Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
2015 COSAFA CUP DRAW
Ghana vs Winner Group B
Mozambique vs Malawi
Zambia vs Winner Group A
South Africa vs Botswana