Young Warriors bow out on winning note
THE Zimbabwe Under-20 national football team ended their campaign in the COSAFA Championships on a winning note after beating Lesotho 4-1 at Gelvandale Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, yesterday.
The Young Warriors collected a total of four points Group A but failed to reach the semi-finals of this regional tournament.
They lost 2-0 to Mozambique, having drawn 2-2 against South Africa in their opening two group matches before turning on the style against Lesotho but it was too little, too late for them to make it into the last four.
Mozambique finished top of the group with seven points, following a goalless draw against South Africa yesterday to proceed to the semi-finals.
South Africa, finished with five points and failed to progress.
However, Young Warriors coach Tonderai Ndiraya and his troops will reflect hard on that draw against the hosts Amajita, where they surrendered a 2-1 lead deep inside the stoppage-time. Zimbabwe paid the price of hasty preparations.
The Young Warriors only assembled 10 days before the start of the tournament which also serves as the zonal qualifiers for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations with two teams that reach the finals qualifying for the Under-20 AFCON finals in Mauritania.
Ndiraya, who is also the Warriors assistant coach, will draw comfort from the fact that his players had a strong attacking flair after scoring six goals in three matches.
In yesterday’s match, Zimbabwe got the opener in the 19th minute through an own goal by Lesotho.
Young Warriors forward Tapiwa Mandinyenya scored their second goal in the 22nd minute while Kelvin Mangiza increased the lead in 33rd minute.
After the breather, Prince Edward midfielder Bill Antonio killed the match as a contest with a 64th minute goal while Lesotho pulled one back three minutes later. The Young Warriors have won the COSAFA Cup six teams. Their last Cup joy was in 2007.
Recent Zimbabwe Under-20 sides have not fared well in the regional tournament although they reached the final in 2018.
The ZIFA technical department will draw a lot of positives from the current team. However, ZIFA are guilty of assembling the teams whenever a tournament is beckoning. The local governing body should periodically group the age-group teams presenting them with an opportunity to play in provincial tournaments.