Holders South Africa got their 2018 Mopani Copper Mines Cosafa Under-20 Championships off to an excellent start with a thumping 5-0 victory over Mauritius in their Group B clash at the Nkana Stadium in Kitwe, Zambia on Monday.
There was also a victory for Zimbabwe as two of the heavyweights of the region flexed their muscles in their pool openers, with the South Africans rampant against their island opponents.
All five goals were scored inside the opening 38 minutes as their slick passing and wing play proved too much for an outclassed Mauritius. The South Africans were ahead inside two minutes when Mauritian captain Jean Francois turned the ball into his own net.
Lyle Foster had the simplest of tap-ins 10 minutes later to add a second, before Nkosingiphile Ngcobo was set through one goal and his powerful drive was only parried into the net by Mauritius goalkeeper Jean Michel.
Shortly afterwards South Africa had a fourth when Promise Mkhuma jinxed to the byline and laid on a perfect cross for Foster to grab his second. The South Africans kept on attacking and when Malebogo Modise found acres of space on the left, his low cross was turned home by James Monyane.
There were no further goals in the second period as South Africa continued to dominate the play, but failed to find the right touch in front of goal.
Zimbabwe took charge of Group C when they claimed a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Botswana in the first game of the day.
The Young Warriors were ahead inside the opening minute when Devine Mhindirira slipped the ball forward for Delic Murimba and the latter produced a neat finish. Zimbabwe might have expected to kick-on from there, but were held by Botswana, who equalised just before halftime.
Substitute Kago Monyake played the ball through for Resaobaka Thatanyane and he drilled the ball into the back of the net.
Both sides had chances to win it in the second period, but Murimba grabbed his brace as he bravely got himself between two defenders to side-foot the ball into the back of the net.
Zimbabwe lead their pool with three points after Lesotho and Angola played to a 1-1 draw in their opener on Sunday.
Tuesday is a rest day at the tournament with the action to resume on Wednesday when Zimbabwe will be back in action, this time taking on Lesotho at the Shinde Stadium (KO 3.30pm).
With just the top team in each pool and the best-placed runner-up advancing to the semifinals, that will give Zimbabwe a real opportunity to put one foot in the next stage.
It is a repeat meeting of the teams from last year when they played to a goalless draw, a result that contributed to Zimbabwe’s early exit.
The opening game of the day sees Central African guest nation DR Congo take on Mozambique in what will be both team’s first games in the competition.
DR Congo finished third in the COSAFA Under-20 Championships in 2016 and are expected to be a contender again this year, while Mozambique always brings competitive sides.
Zimbabwe 2 (Murimba 2’, 72’) Botswana 1 (Thatanyane 44’)
South Africa 5 (Francois 2’og, Foster 13’, 26’, Ngcobo 23’, Monyane 38’) Mauritius 0
12pm (10am GMT): DR Congo vs Mozambique – Shinde Stadium
3.30pm (1.30pm GMT): Zimbabwe vs Lesotho – Shinde Stadium