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Cosafa Cup: What can we learn from 2024 edition?

Cosafa Cup: What can we learn from 2024 edition?
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With the 2024 edition of the Cosafa Cup now over, Sports Mole looks at what we learned from the tournament.

The 23rd edition of the Cosafa Cup was concluded in South Africa, where 12 nations competed for the crown.

Hosts Bafana Bafana did not perform as anticipated; they drew two games and claimed a narrow 1-0 win over Eswatini which was not enough to see them through. Mozambique advanced from Group A but failed to deliver against Namibia in the semi-final.

Kenya paid the price for underrating Comoros in Group B, eventually getting knocked out, as the Urban Warriors grabbed the best runners-up slot, and managed to go all the way to the final where they lost 5-0 against Angola, arguably the biggest winners - after ending their 10-year wait.

As usual, every competition has its doings and undoings; the 2024 Cosafa Cup is not an exception.

The timing of the competition

This is something the organisers should consider having a closer look at in the forthcoming competitions.

The annual tournament was arranged to take place weeks after the completion of domestic competitions, meaning some players were not fully fit.

"We will have more off-the-field sessions because if you still remember, they only came back on [June 23]... they are coming from an off-season and for us to push them, we will be breaking them and also killing their careers," Bafana Bafana coach Helman Mkhalele argued after his team's struggles.

"What we will do is to have more of the off-field sessions to work on the mental state and when we train, it is not going to be a hectic session."

Add some flavour

Usually, competitions are there to give the fans entertainment and high-quality football that is worth their money and time. One of the reasons why the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations stood out - as opposed to the previous editions - was its level of competitiveness.

The stadiums in South Africa were rarely filled to even a third, because fans may have felt they were getting a raw deal. Organisers should consider making the competition more attractive by having stars turn out for their respective teams.

Imagine watching Bafana Bafana with no player from Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, or Kaizer Chiefs; it explains why the likes of Kenya sent their Under-23 team to take part in the competition.

VAR introduction, perfect timing

Morocco and Egypt are so far the only teams with fully equipped Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology.

The Premier Soccer League is one of the best top-tier leagues in Africa, but the 2023-24 campaign had several high-profile mistakes from the referees.

Safa have been in the process of introducing the technology in Mzansi and after a successful implementation in the Cosafa Cup competition, the fans should expect the process to be hastened, domestically.

For Cosafa organisers, the standards have been set, and more or the same will be expected in the next edition.

No underdogs in Cosafa Cup, teams are catching up

Imagine coming into a competition with the desire to successfully defend your crown, only to go back with five goals conceded and no points. That was the Zambia story; they just did not turn up for the show.

Kenya's Emerging Stars started well but failed to sustain the momentum against Comoros who topped Group B.

Bafana Bafana just could not cope with Botswana and Zambia, while the 2023 finalists Lesotho went home with a point.

While the likes of Angola lived up to expectations alongside Namibia, the message was clear, any team can be crowned. It is just a matter of playing your cards right.

More games for teams, please?

There is a saying in football that 'football starts in the knockout phase' because every team believes it has a good chance of advancing to the latter stages.

There were 12 teams in the 2024 edition, but only three phases - group stage, semi-finals, and final - were played.

To some extent, the fans' thirst was not quenched as it should be. A quarter-final phase should have been introduced as this could have added more spice.

All said and done, congratulations Angola!

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