Young Chipolopolo Zambia kicks off its third successive attempt at winning the COSAFA U20 Cup as hosts when they face Botswana in their opening Group A match at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
Zambia are battling to reclaim the COSAFA U20 crown they last won away in South Africa in December 2016 but fell twice at home in Kitwe after they relinquished it with a first round exit in 2017 and a semifinal elimination in 2018.
Malawi and Comoros, who play in the early lunchtime kick off at Nkoloma, are their other Group A opponents in what will also be the final of the three-COSAFA U20 tournament series that Zambia was earmarked to host.
“We have a good team that can deliver and we made a promise that we shall strive to keep,” Zambia U20 coach Oswald Mutapa said.
“Botswana has a good side and we respect them but we need to win this game at all cost. The boys are willing to work which is very good I think.”
Mutapa heads his first Zambia U20 assignment after guiding the U17 team to 2019 COSAFA U17 Cup triumph in Malawi in October.
But Mutapa is not the first man in this frame and follows in the footsteps of Mumamba Numba’s 2017 COSAFA U17 victory in Mauritius in July of that year that saw Zambia win its debut tournament title in that category.
However, that project did not replicate itself five months later when Numba was also promoted to steer the COSAFA U20 campaign that ended with that early exit as hosts in Kitwe.
Lusaka Celtic striker Francisco Mwepu, who starred in the 2017 COSAFA U17 Cup victory, and had a notable outing in the unsuccessful COSAFA U20 tournament on the Copperbelt, returns to the fold.
Mwepu missed the 2018 edition after opting for trials in Austria at RB Salzburg where his big brother plays.
Focus will be on the fiery striker to lead the cause as Zambia hopes to end the year with some silverware just weeks after the team that last won the COSAFA U20 Cup, that included his big brother Enock, failed to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following a group stage exit at the 2019 U23 AFCON in Egypt.