The late withdrawal of Madagascar from the 2021 COSAFA Cup has forced a change to the format of the competition, which now has two groups of five teams each.
Madagascar were unable to secure their travel to Nelson Mandela Bay for the July 6-18 tournament and 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 are now in the ‘new’ Group B, which also contains west African guest nation Senegal, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Mozambique.
The fixtures for the opening day of the competition on Tuesday remained the same and saw Eswatini beat Lesotho 3-1 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and South Africa edged Botswana 1-0.
The opening matches in the old Group C were played on Wednesday and saw Mozambique play a nil-all draw against Zimbabwe before Senegal fell 2-1 at the hands of Namibia at the same venue.
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.
Another change that was announced by the organising committee earlier in the day is that teams may use five substitutes in matches, though they must be brought on at only three separate points during the game. This is in line with FIFA and CAF statutes that have been extended for use until the end of 2022.