Tough group yes! But Copper Queens have a history of inspirations
On first sight, Zambia’s group spells fear, looking at some of the dreaded opponents that have been drawn but history shows that the Copper Queens have past inspiration to draw from that could help them reign on world sports’ biggest stage; The Olympic Games.
Zambia placed has been placed in Group F of the women’s football tournament which is slated for July in Tokyo, Japan.
In a draw conducted by FIFA on Wednesday morning, the Copper Queens were placed alongside South American giants Brazil, eight-time Asian Cup champions China and 2019 women’s World Cup finalists, the Netherlands.
The Bruce Mwape coached side will begin their campaign with a match against the Netherlands before turning their attention to China and Brazil.
Eyes of expectations will gaze on Zambia due to a number of reasons;
Alongside New Zealand and Chile, Zambia will also be making their debut appearances at the games in women’s football.
The Copper Queens could be looking to replicate the heights of the men’s team in 1988 which went ahead to finish as quarterfinalists in Seoul, South Korea.
But that may not be all that will be at stake for the Barbara Banda-skippered side as they will also be Africa’s watch being the only team that has qualified from women’s football following the defeat Cameroun by Chile.
Though all reasons above and magnitude of teams in the tournament seem to flicker the light of hope for a good performance, there is reason for belief that Zambia may just be in for surprise.
REASON FOR BELIEF
Expectations may not be high from local soccer fans looking at the pedigree of the teams in Zambia’s group but going beyond expectations may not be a new thing for the women’s side who already negotiated a similar mountain of qualifying to this stage (against all odds), even in the face of more experienced sides like Cameroon and Nigeria.
That in itself will be reason for much more optimism even in the face of fear, if at all it is even there.
What’s more; Zambia has other places to draw their hopes from, if their own qualification is not ideal enough.
The Kalusha Bwalya-inspired side of 33 years ago re-wrote Zambian football history books at the same stage in men’s football with emphatic victories over Guatemala, a draw with then-giants Iraq and a the famous 4-0 thrashing of FIFA World Cup threats Italy, hence topping Group B.
In fact, Zambia did more than just beating Italy, they score more (10) and conceded (2), and never lost. Only Germany proved a tough opponent at the Quarterfinal hurdle.
But although they were eliminated, a statement had already been written, never to be erased from football memories of the Olympics, except maybe if one is an Italian soccer fanatic.
The women’s side should definitely draw some lessons of inspiration from that 1988 team.
But if that will still not be enough, then a stone throw into the archives of the FIFA under-20 World Cup of 2017 where the likes of Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu and Fashion Sakala ran the rounds all the way to the quarterfinals of the tournament under the theme ‘Bola na Lesa’ should do the trick.
Like the 1988 side, they too went to the tournament under a thin vail of hope that only had the gratitude of an appearance but they went and rose like the eagle, teaching Germany and Italy some lessons or two about the game.
There is still one more source of hope, the Africa Cup triumph! Yes, how could one forget the memories of 2012 in Gabon when Zambia brought Africa to a stand-still with that penalty shootout victory over Ivory Coast that saw the team claim its hands on the golden trophy.
All in all, Zambia’s participation in such football tournaments spells hope that heroes can be born even when one least expects.
It has been done before and it can be done again!!!