Eswatini make final selection for COSAFA U-17 Championship         

09Oct 2019
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Eswatini make final selection for COSAFA U-17 Championship         

ESWATINI’s U-17 football team head coach Gcina Dlamini has finalized his squad for the COSAFA men’s Under-17 Championships after naming an 18-man selection for the competition to be played in Blantyre, Malawi from October 11-20.

Unathi Hlatshwako of Eswatini (R) clears from John Hazem Bonomali of Zimbabwe during the 2018 COSAFA U-17 Youth Championships football match between the two teams at the Anjalay Stadium in Mauritius on 20 July.

Eswatini were a late entry into the competition after the withdrawal of Botswana and are looking to build on past solid displays at the regional showpiece event. Compared to many teams, Dlamini has selected an older group, with most 16 years old, and that may well give them an advantage in their matches.

Other teams have opted to rather build towards the 2021 Africa Under-17 Championship qualifiers and so have players as young as 13, but many in the 14- and 15-year-old bracket.

Eswatini will open their Group A campaign against 2017 winners Zambia on October 12, before a meeting with hosts Malawi two days later.

They complete their pool play against South Africa on October 16.

Eswatini featured in the very first COSAFA men’s Under-17 Championship in 1994 but did not make it past the group stages despite a handy showing that included a win and two draws in their four matches.

They did make the semifinals in 2001 but lost 2-0 to South Africa and then went down by the same score line in the bronze-medal match to Zambia.

Eswatini were back the next year, gaining draws with Botswana (1-1) and Lesotho (0-0), but ended second in the four-team mini-tournament after an epic 5-4 loss to eventual winners South Africa.

They finished bottom of their pool in 2007, despite a win over Namibia (3-1), and did not take part in the next event in 2016 that came after a long lay-off for the tournament.

They missed 2017 too, but returned for the 2018 edition, claiming a pool stage win over Zimbabwe (3-2), but losses to Angola (0-4) and Malawi (0-1) saw them exit the competition early.  Eswatini squad:

Goalkeepers: Junior Tsabedze, Mfanukhona Magagula

Defenders: Phumlani Zwane, Njabuliso Mkhatshwa, Siphephelo Philiso, Siphelele Dvuba, Bongani Mhlanga, Lihle Mnisi, Mpendulo Makhanya

Midfielders: Phumlani Shongwe, Siza Mabila, Lungelo Magongo, Thulani Lukhele, Colani Dvuba, Yandiswa Kunene, Kelvin Kunene

Strikers: Khayalethu Zitha, Mukelo Nkambule