Tapera to overhaul Cosafa Cup squad

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

WARRIORS caretaker coach Jairos Tapera is set to overhaul the squad that was initially announced by ZIFA for the 2024 COSAFA Cup, as he looks to give the stage to Under-23 players when the tournament is held in Durban later this month.  

The Warriors were paired with old foes Zambia and Comoros in Group B following a draw in South Africa yesterday. 

Malawi were supposed to be the fourth team in the group, but they withdrew from the tournament as the country is currently in mourning following the death of vice president Saulos Klaus Chilima in a plane crash that claimed eight other lives.

Warriors coach Tapera welcomed the draw and also revealed his plans to reconstitute his squad based on Under-23 selections.  

The initial squad, which was a mixture of fringe national team players and youthfulness, had been called up by ZIFA on the understanding that the COSAFA tournament would start soon after the 2026 World Cup qualifying matches against Lesotho and South Africa that took place across the Limpopo last week. 

At the time of the squad announcement, Tapera had also not settled into his new appointment as interim head coach. 

But the postponement of the COSAFA Cup by almost two weeks has given Tapera more time to work on his preferred choices and he revealed to the Zimpapers Sports Hub there will be wholesale changes to the initial squad. 

The COSAFA Cup will run from June 26 to July 7 in Durban.

“Definitely the squad that you saw will be changed. We are going to sit down with my technical team to work on a new team since we would want to base our squad on under-23 selections. 

“Given that we have to look into the future, we feel this is a tournament to give opportunities to players that have shown promise and are still under the age of 23 years. Of course, there will be one or two experienced players to make up the spine of the team. So, we are trying to build from there.

“But those other players under the age of 23 who have already graduated into the senior team will not be called up because they have already proved themselves. 

“There is no reason we should be calling someone like Tawanda Chirewa, we should be paving the way for others,” said Tapera.

The COSAFA tournament will be key ahead of the upcoming AFCON 2025 qualifiers, whose draw will be conducted on July 4. The qualifiers for continental football showpiece will begin in September.

Zimbabwe are still reeling from the effects of the FIFA ban and would need every opportunity to rebuild their team. The COSAFA Cup is one such opportunity. 

Tapera is targeting an enlarged squad, which will be trimmed towards the tournament dates. The Warriors caretaker coach also called for more time with his players in camp.

The ZIFA Normalisation Committee yesterday convened a meeting to map the way forward, with regards the preparations for the regional tournament. Serial winners Zimbabwe are making a return to the COSAFA tournament after missing the 2023 edition due to a FIFA ban.

Their clash with Zambia in Group B is likely to be the major highlight at the tournament because of a long-standing history of rivalries. 

Zimbabwe held the record of being the most successful nation at COSAFA until last year when Zambia claimed the bragging rights. 

Chipolopolo went back-to-back in 2023 and now sit at the top with seven titles in the bag. That is one more than Zimbabwe (six), with South Africa (five), Angola (three) and Namibia (one), the only other teams to claim regional glory. 

Organisers have retained last year’s format, which saw the 12 participating teams split into three groups of four sides, with the three pool winners and the best runner-up set to advance to the semifinals.

Hosts South Africa and Botswana will lock horns yet again in the most played fixture in COSAFA Cup history in Group A which also has Mozambique and Eswatini.

Last year’s runners-up Lesotho are in Group C along with three-time winners Angola, 2015 champions Namibia and Seychelles.


South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini, Botswana


Zambia, Team to be confirmed, Comoros, Zimbabwe


Angola, Namibia, Lesotho

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