Zambia, who are also African champions and performed superbly at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, have been hard at training for the defence of their regional title and the work appears to be paying off for coach Mumamba Numba.
He has brought through many of the players that claimed the 2017 COSAFA U-17 championship in Mauritius, including leading forward Lameck Banda.
Banda netted a hat-trick against the Chilanga Youth Select XI, to go with goals for Harry Milanzi, Clinton Lubula and Evans Chisenga.
Banda, in particular, will be able to use the COSAFA U-20 championship to further enhance his reputation with the eyes of scouts on the tournament, just as the likes of Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka did in South Africa last year.
Numba has engineered an overhaul of the U-20 side as players move up through the age-groups to ensure Zambia is ready for the 2019 African U-20 championship that is scheduled to be played in Niger.
Numba is likely to name his final squad tomorrow.
Zambia have been drawn in Group A at this year’s championship along with Swaziland, East African guest nation, Uganda, and Malawi.
They open their campaign against the Ugandans at the Arthur Davies Stadium on December 6, before a clash with Malawi at the same venue two days later.
They will close their pool play with a fixture against Swaziland at the Nkana Stadium on December 11, with just the top team in each group advancing to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up.
Zimbabwe coach Bekithemba Ndlovu has named a 29-man provisional squad for the 2017 Mopani Copper Mines COSAFA U-20 Championship that will be staged in Zambia from December 6-16.
The Young Warriors will be hoping to improve on their 2016 showing when they exited in the first round and add to their six previous titles in the regional showpiece competition.
After an extensive scouting programme in Harare and Bulawayo, Ndlovu has called 29 players into camp, including senior international Leroy Mavunga, who was part of the side that claimed the COSAFA Castle Cup in South Africa this year. Also included is South Africa-based Kudakwashe Mangami, with 14 different clubs represented overall.
The carrot being dangled in front of the Zimbabwean players are the number of scouts from mostly South African clubs who will be at the tournament to look out for new talent from a country that has a long history of sending quality players to play in the South African league.
Zimbabwe have been drawn in Group C at the 2017 COSAFA U-20 Championship along with Angola, Namibia and Lesotho.
Only the top team in each pool advanced to the semi-finals, along with the best-placed runner-up. “There is no easy group, there is no group of death but all of them are tough because all of the teams, from what I have seen, can play football,” Ndlovu told reporters earlier this month.
“So, even our group, we are going there to compete and we are going there knowing that every team, which we are going to play against, is a strong team.
“Obviously we would want to win the cup, but there will be one winner at the end of the tournament. So, like I said, we are going there to compete, we are going in there to try and win games also.”
Zimbabwe start their campaign against Lesotho at the Nkana Stadium on December 7, before a clash with Angola at the same venue three days later. They round out their pool play with a match versus Namibia at the Arthur Davies Stadium on December 11.