Namibia lit up the opening day of the 2018 COSAFA Under-17 Championships with a stunning 8-3 victory over Seychelles in their Group A clash at the Stade St Francois Xavier in Port Louis on Thursday.
Prins Tjiueza scored four goals and Tyrin George also grabbed a hat-trick as the 2016 champions ran riot in the second period having claimed a 4-3 halftime lead.
In fact, Seychelles, who scored their goals through Afandi Aboudou, Jarrel Suzette and Rino Pauline, had levelled the game at 3-3 after 20 minutes in what was an action-packed opening to the tournament.
But the islanders faded in the second period as Namibia continued to keep the pressure on and provided an early show of their potential to go all the way again in this year’s competition.
Hosts Mauritius, who were finalists last year, were left stunned following a 1-0 loss to Botswana in the other match in Group A.
The closely-fought clash looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw before Oageng Maphorisa converted from the spot for the Young Zebras with eight minutes remaining.
Home defender Laurent Maison Rouge, who conceded the spot-kick, was also handed the first red card of the tournament as Mauritius finished the game with 10 men.
There was also a single fixture in Group B, where defending champions Zambia were held to a 0-0 draw by Mozambique.
It was a tough start for both teams and given that the Young Mambas defeated Zambia in last year’s competition, not too much can be read into the hiccup at the start for the holders.
It was a game of few clear-cut chances that was also played in part in the rain, but with heavyweights South Africa and a tricky Lesotho also in the pool, it was not the ideal start for either side.
Only the top team in each pool advances to the semifinals along with the best runner-up as the 12 competing sides seek to be crowned champions and in doing so win a place in next year’s African Under-17 Championships that will be held in Tanzania.
The action continues on Friday with three more matches, including a Group B opener for two-time champions South Africa (kick-off 15h30 local, 11h30 GMT) at the Stade Anjalay in Belle Vue.
South Africa have never failed to make the semifinals of this competition and are among the favourites again with a number of the players who served them so well last year.
Lesotho will provide a stern opening test though and will be ready to punish any slip-ups.
Before that there will be two games in Group C as Angola take on Malawi in the early fixture (10h00 local, 06h00 GMT).
Malawi have finished third in the last two championships in Mauritius and would dearly love to turn bronze into gold. Angola have been missing from this stage in recent years and will hope to make a triumphant return.
Zimbabwe have underachieved at Under-17 level give the rich source of talent in the country and they will get the chance to show their quality with an opener against Swaziland (12h30 local, 08h30 GMT).
In what is likely to be a tight group, it will be crucial both sides get off to a strong start.