By NAKAMPE LEKWADU
THE Metropoiltan Cosafa Under-20 Youth Championships gets underway on Friday, December 10 when four teams take each other in the semi-finals of the competition at Molepolole Stadium, Botswana.
The match which will be the main focus will be that one between defending champions, Zambia who take on the 2007 champions, Zimbabwe in what should be a titanic battle at 3pm. The second semis will see Madagascar taking on Namibia.
Zimbabwe earned their passage after they beat Swaziland 3-1 in Group A with Zambia qualifying through after a 2-0 victory over Mauritius. This after the young Chipolopolo were held to a 2-2 draw by Angola in their Group C opener.
This match is a repeat of the 1997 final that was staged in Gaborone, in which Zambia triumphed 2-0, and the side head into the fixture as perhaps slight favourites given their more recent success.
Chakwa Lungu has proved an important cog for the Zambians, netting in both previous matches, and he will be closely watched by the Zimbabwe defence, which includes the outstanding Lincoln Zvasiya, who will have piqued the interest of many of the scouts in attendance in Botswana.
As will Denver Mukamba, the excellent attacker from the Young Warriors who will also be keen to keep up his record of scoring in both previous matches in the tournament.
Friday’s second semifinal sees surprise-package Namibia take on the impressive Madagascar at Molepolole at 5pm.
The Namibians conceded 13 goals in their two matches in last year’s Metropolitan COSAFA Under-20 Youth Championships and this time round were pooled in a tough Group B against 2011 African Youth Championship qualifiers Lesotho and regional giants South Africa.
But they set the tone for their tournament when they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Lesotho in their opening fixture, with skipper Sydney Uri Khob netting an excellent brace.
And then needing to win by two clear goals to advance to the semifinals, they completed the job with a 2-0 success over South Africa on Wednesday as Uri Khob scored again to move to the top of the goal-scorers charts at the tournament, and Eslin Kamuhanga got the crucial second goal with 12 minutes remaining.
It was a fairytale finish for the Namibians and a rare appearance in the semifinals for the country. But they will have their work cut out against a very organised Malagasy side.
The islanders thumped Seychelles 5-0 in their opener as Jean Rakotondramantra, Falihery Ramanamahepa, Voavy Kassah and Njiva Rakotondramantra (two) netted for them.
And then with the pressure on in a winner-takes-all clash with Mozambique on Wednesday, the Malagasy triumphed 2-0 with relative ease, Jean Rakotondramantra and Kassah on the scoresheet again.
The winner of Friday’s semifinals will meet in the championship decider in Gaborone on Sunday (kick-off 15h00), while the losers will meet in the third/fourth play-off (kick-off 11h00) to decide the bronze medal.