Great Expectations at Cosafa

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By Confidence Musa WINDHOEK The Cosafa Castle Cup has brought great expectations and God knows who will be suffering and crying on Monday morning. Malawi has come to Windhoek with their great expectations. The Flames have been in camp longer than any other side at this four nations tourney. They are spurred on by the pride of always beating Zambia when it matters most. Although economic wise, Malawi will be the least rated, Malawi could be the deciding factor at this weekend. The Flames beat past winner Zambia on their way to the 2002 Cosafa final and the next year they disposed of Zambia again on penalties in the semifinals of this competition. The side has a strong record in regional competitions, having won the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup three times – in 1978, 1979 and 1988. With the Black Leopards defender suffering a last minute injury, Coach Burkhard Ziese will bank on his experience of Zambian soccer. The expatriate coach has once coached Chipolopolo and has a great knowledge of most local based players who Zambia is bringing. Zambia (Chipolopolo) meaning the bullet, will need a drilled armour to douse The Flames. Chipolopolo also has sowed seeds of great expectations in defeating Malawi in the first match. Last year, Zambia beat Malawi 2-1 in the group stages at Woodlands stadium to qualify for the semi-finals in South Africa. Zambia, who have won both of the first two Cosafa Castle Cup competitions, will use this tournament to re-establish their regional dominance. This with its formidable record, having lost just three times in 28 Cosafa Castle Cup appearances, not counting defeat in post-match penalty shootouts. This weekend’s matches will complete the three mini tournaments where the overall winners will join holders Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana in the semifinals. All the group tournament winners will play in two semifinals to be played on the weekends of August 19-20 and 16-17 September with the final being set for the weekend of 21-22 October. Seychelles arrived here on a high note, recalling eight of the senior players who disbanded Zimbabwe and Eritrea in 2004, Africa Nations Cup qualifiers. The eight, led by St Michel’s Philip Zialor were also in the same side that lost 0-3 to South Africa in last year’s Cosafa. They are banking on their home-grown talent to do the damage against Namibia. For the Pirates of Seychelles, the fact that they are above the Brave Warriors of Namibia in the FIFA standings, will be their secret motivation. All the three teams have come to join the hosts Namibia at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, in a weekend whose expectations will see any slip-ups resulting in the loser lining up on the death row of regional football’s version of the gas chamber. It might appear to be a weekend of underdogs, but with such great expectations, the small boys might emerge with dangerous teeth, to avoid the eternal humiliation. The other great expectation however lies in the likelihood of a Zambia-Namibia final. The Brave Warriors of Namibia have met Zambia only twice in this competition (1997 and 1998). They drew on both occasions during the league phase, after both went past the knockout round. In 1997, Namibia beat Malawi 4-1, their biggest ever win in the competition at the Independence Stadium, and drew 1-1 in 1999, but Namibia went on to lose 2-1 on aggregate against Angola in the final second leg, after a 1-0 win by Angola in the first final leg. After last year’s Cosafa tournament in the capital more than twenty players from Zimbabwe , Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique were spotted by foreign scouts. Only eight managed to make the grade into the South African and European football market . So this tournament also brings more expectations from the players involved. The moment of truth awaits and it might be more easily said than done for some teams. Great Expectations.

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