South Africa have been crowned champions of the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Zambia in the final at a full Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday.
It is the third year in a row that the South Africans have claimed the regional title and their sixth in all from the seven previous championships played as they showcased their quality fresh from an appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
The only goal of the game was scored midway through the first half as Tiisetso Makhubela netted with a fierce shot into the roof of the net after Zambia goalkeeper Hazel Nali had spilled a routine catch.
The home side, roared on by the capacity crowd, continued to create most of the chances, but both goalkeepers made excellent saves to keep the scoreline down.
It is still a best-ever performance by Zambia in the COSAFA Women’s Championship as they earned a silver medal, to go with three previous bronzes.
There will be much to build on for them as they now look ahead to an Olympic Games qualifier against Zimbabwe at the end of this month.
Zambia’s Rachael Nachula picked up the Golden Boot award in the competition for her 10 goals, while South African goalkeeper Andile Dlamini won the Golden Glove for her excellent displays.
Hellen Mubanga from Zambia was named the Player of the Tournament as her strong showings took the Shepolopolo to the brink of a maiden title.
Meanwhile, Tanzania lifted the inaugural COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over luckless Zambia in the final.
Zambia had triumphed by the same scoreline in their meeting in the group stages, but it was roles reversed as the East Africans this time came out on top.
After a cagey beginning, Tanzania took the lead when Opa Sanga swept home a cross from the left wing, her third goal of the tournament.
Tanzania had a few opportunities to add to that lead but were pegged back 10 minutes into the second period when Loveness Malunga netted a wonderful equaliser.
She picked up the ball on the edge of the box and rifled home a shot to bring the score level.
It looked as though the game would be headed for penalties before Protasia Mbunda scored a stunning winner with five minutes remaining.
The ball was cleared to her 30 yards from goal and she crashed a shot into the net from that distance, beating Zambia goalkeeper Anna Mukumbuta with her pace and power.
That sparked wild scenes of celebration and Tanzania were able to hold on for the win to lift the trophy.
Maylan Mulenga from Zambia won the Golden Boot award with five goals, while her compatriot Cynthia Shonga was named Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
The Player of the Tournament prize went to Enekia Lunyamila from Tanzania, who was a star throughout.
The next COSAFA events will be staged next month as the Women’s Under-17 Championship is played in Mauritius from 13-22 September.