Legend rallies Cosafa teams for AFCON

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Tadious Manyepo

HARARE - SOUTHERN African countries haven’t really posed any constant threat to the Africa Cup of Nations order.

Only Zambia and South Africa have stood that tall but again both lack the consistency that differentiates West and North Africa from the rest of the continent.

Since the first AFCON was held in 1957, this part of Africa has only delivered the crown twice, with South Africa winning it at home in 1996 while Zambia snatched the contest in 2012 when Gabon and Equatorial Guinea jointly hosted the tournament.

The two also remain the only teams from this region to garner a runners-up medal with Zambia having played the bridesmaid’s role to Nigeria in 1994 while South Africa did the same four years later in Burkina Faso when falling 0-2 to Egypt in the final.

But both teams haven’t been permanent fixtures at the AFCON, underlying how inconsistent teams from this region are when it comes to the ultimate football competition on this continent.

In Gabon two years ago, only Zimbabwe featured from the Southern Africa lot.

But, this time around, the Cosafa region has seen the highest number of representation since the inception of the tournament over six decades ago.

South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the only debutants from the cast, Madagascar, will be carrying the region’s hopes in the tournament that begins in Egypt on June 21.

Unfortunately or fortunately all of them are rank outsiders to win the tournament.

But, one of the greatest players to emerge from this region, former Zimbabwe Warriors captain Peter Ndlovu, the first African to play in the English Premiership, reckons that football has evolved and one of the Southern African teams can actually win the AFCON if they believe in themselves.

Ndlovu is currently the manager of reigning South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

“Football has evolved and there are no longer small teams in international football. The fact that five teams from this region have qualified while previously we could hardly send three at a time shows that times are changing.

“The major hurdle that we throw on our way is obviously fear. Fear of individuals and teams. If the teams can just go and play football knowing that they are facing an equal number in the field, they can do well.

“From the way I see all of the teams which have qualified from this region, I think they are all capable of competing and one of them can win the AFCON.

“There is nothing special with those names in football, what is critical is to apply the key aspects of the game to perfection and you get the results,” said Ndlovu.

Ndlovu was the first captain to lead Zimbabwe to the AFCON in 2004 where he scored in each of the group games though his team couldn’t progress to the quarter-finals.

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