Banyana handed gentle first round draw at 2017 COSAFA Championships
Banyana Banyana have been handed a gentle first round draw at the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championships that will be staged in Bulawayo‚ Zimbabwe‚ from September 13-24.
The tournament marks a starting point in the build-up to the 2018 African Women’s Championships‚ which in turn will offer South Africa the chance for a first-ever appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup when it is staged in France the following year.
Banyana have been placed in Group C along along with neighbours Namibia‚ Lesotho and Botswana‚ none of who should present a major obstacle to coach Desiree Ellis and her side.
Their first fixture will be against Lesotho on September 14‚ before they tackle Namibia (September 15) and Botswana (September 17).
The top team in each pool automatically qualifies for the semifinals‚ along with the best-placed runner-up.
Hosts Zimbabwe‚ who like Banyana qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games‚ will likely provide the major challenge to South Africa’s quest for gold.
They beat Banyana in the final on home soil in 2011‚ the last time the regional finals were staged.
South Africa had won the three previous stagings of the event in 2002‚ 2006 and 2008.
Zimbabwe are in Group A along with Zambia‚ Madagascar and Malawi‚ and should qualify easily for the knockout stages.
East African guest nation Kenya head up Group B‚ where they will face Mauritius‚ Mozambique and Swaziland.
The semifinals will be played on September 21‚ with the final three days later.
The competition provides perfect fine-tuning for Ellis as she looks ahead to the qualifiers for the African Women’s Championships‚ which are scheduled to start in February next year.