The Cosafa organisers have been forced to make amends to the 2021 Cosafa Cup fixtures and format following the late withdrawal of Madagascar.
The Island nation pulled out of the 20th edition to be held at Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa from July 6 to 18 after they failed to secure travel on Monday.
Their withdrawal comes just two days after Comoros also pulled out citing tough restrictions of Covid-19 in their country.
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Cosafa has confirmed they have been forced to make changes to the format and it will now have two groups, instead of three, and of five teams each.
“The late withdrawal of Madagascar from the Cosafa Cup has forced a change to the format of the competition, which will now have two groups of five teams each,” Cosafa said in a statement on their official website .
“Madagascar had been unable to secure their travel to Nelson Mandela Bay for the July 6-18 tournament which, following the decision of Comoros Islands not to come, left the original Group B with only Zambia and Malawi.
“And so, the original format of a three-group competition has been simplified into two pools, with the top two nations in each group advancing to the semi-finals.
“Cosafa conducted a draw to place Zambia and Malawi in the new respective Groups A and B, doing so in the presence of representatives for the 10 remaining teams and the local organising committee.
“The draw placed defending champions Zambia in Group A along with hosts South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. That means Malawi will be in the ‘new’ Group B, which also contains West African guest nation Senegal, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Mozambique.”
Meanwhile, the tournament’s kick-off date will remain Tuesday with Eswatini playing the opener against Lesotho before hosts South Africa take on Namibia.
“The fixtures for the opening day of the competition on Tuesday remain the same and will see Eswatini face Lesotho at 14h00 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and South Africa play Botswana at the same venue at 17h00,” the statement continued.
“The opening matches in the old Group C will now be played on Wednesday and will see Mozambique tackle Zimbabwe at the Wolfson Stadium at 12h00, and Senegal meet Namibia at the same venue at 15h00.
“The competition will continue in a round-robin format until each team has played four matches. With sides only guaranteed three games under the previous three-group tournament format, an added fixture will no doubt be welcomed by coaches.”