Zambia have been drawn alongside Malawi, Mozambique and newcomers Réunion who will bring an extra dimension and something of the unknown as an associate member of COSAFA.
All three will present a stern challenge for Zambia, who were also crowned 2016 African champions, but disappointingly exited in the first round in Kitwe last year.
Group B contains holders South Africa, their traditional rivals at age-group level Namibia, Mauritius and eSwatini. It is another tough pool to call with the teams likely to bring much0-changed squads in 2018.
Group C contains last year’s runners-up Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana, who return to the regional championship after skipping last year.
Zimbabwe are six-time winners of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships but have exited in the first round in each of the last two years and will be desperate to atone for those disappointments.
Only the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals, where the competition switches to a knockout format.
“It is an exciting draw and one that will produce plenty of thrilling football during the competition, but also a chance for these boys to test their skill against their peers from around the region,” says COSAFA President Dr Phillip Chiyangwa.
“The MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships is another step towards us fulfilling our mandate to provide development opportunity to players, coaches, matches officials and administrators and will be the fifth tournament that we as COSAFA will manage in 2018.
“We are proud to continue to play our part in developing Southern African football and are grateful to our sponsors MOPANI Copper Mines and our gracious hosts, the Football Association of Zambia, for their continued support.”
The tournament returns to the copper belt after a successful staging in Kitwe last year and will be broadcast live on Kwesé TV.
“At Kwesé we pride ourselves in broadcasting nothing but the best in sports. As a broadcast partner for COSAFA in Africa, we are proud to offer a pan-African platform to showcase our continent’s phenomenal sporting talent on Kwesé’ s extensive broadcast network. With active Kwesé TV subscriptions, sports lovers can follow the season from kick off to the finals on TV or on the move on Kwesi’s mobile app,” expressed Country Manager for Kwesé TV Zambia, Progress Chisenga.
A version of the COSAFA Under-20 Championships was first played in 1983, with Zambia leading the way with 11 titles, while Zimbabwe and South Africa have six each and Madagascar one.
2018 MOPANI Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships Draw
A1 – Zambia
A2 – Malawi
A3 – Reunion
A4 – Mozambique
B1 – South Africa
B2 – Namibia
B3 – Mauritius
B4 – eSwatini
C1 – Lesotho
C2 – Zimbabwe
C3 – Angola
C4 – Botswana