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MBABANE – Despite being drawn in what could be dubbed a ‘group of death’, Sihlangu might face a weakened Namibia in the upcoming COSAFA Cup in July.

This past Friday Eswatini were drawn against hosts South Africa, as well as last year’s runners-up Namibia and Botswana in the HollywoodBets Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Senior Challenge, to be played in Durban, South Africa, in the period July 5-16, 2023. Reports suggest that Namibia’s Brave Warriors Head Coach, Collin Benjamin, recently named 37 players to prepare for the upcoming COSAFA Senior Challenge and 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier for next month.

A Namibian newspaper reported that Benjamin was planning to rest many of his key players, including talisman Peter Shalulile, for the COSAFA tournament in South Africa, leaving the new recruits and fringe players to carry the baton. Namibia were runners-up to Zambia in last year’s COSAFA Cup tournament, going down 1-0 in extra time of the nail-biting decider, and are a point away from securing qualification in the AFCON 2023 qualification tournament. Shalulile deserves no introduction, as he is a sharp shooter in South Africa, where he is based.

In the recently-concluded Premier Soccer League (PSL) season, he scored 12 goals to be a top goalscorer again. However, he shares the award with Khanyisa Mayo of Cape Town City.
Another renowned Namibian star is Deon Hotto, who plays for new Nedbank Cup champions Orlando Pirates. If Benjamin’s words are anything to go by, he is also likely to miss the COSAFA Cup. The other teams in the group in Botswana and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana were yet to name their squads at the time of compiling this report. However, South Africa usually brings a developmental team to the tournament. Sihlangu, on the other hand, named one international in Lindo Mkhonta of Zesco United in Zambia.


The biggest omission is MTN Premier League top goalscorer Felix Badenhorst, who fired an unmatched 20-goal tally in 2022/23 season. Meanwhile, while reacting to the last draw,  Sihlangu Head Coach Kunene acknowledged that it was tough for the country but assured that they would intensify their preparations to do better than last year when Sihlangu lost in penalties to Senegal in the quarter-finals. “We will indeed face tough opponents but we will leave that mindset behind. We aim to do better compared to the previous years. With the draw now, we will be able to develop the right mindset in the players beforehand. We also look on bolstering the tournaments’ preparations to match them,” he said.


The COSAFA group matches in Durban will be played from July 5-12, with the semi-finals on July 14. The final and third-place play-off will  be staged at the King Zwelithini Stadium two days later. It is a departure from the previous format in which there were two groups of four teams and another six sides entered at the quarter-final stage. There will also be no Plate competition (quarter-finals losers’ tournament) this year. The new format ensures each country will play a minimum of three games up to a maximum of five over the course of the competition. The teams were drawn into three groups of four sides, with the top side in each pool advancing to the semi-finals along with the best-placed runner-up. It also allows for an extra days’ rest between most pool games, a boost for player welfare.