By FIFA Media
Get the lowdown on Zambia, with skipper and star striker Barbra Banda well capable of making another massive impact on the global stage.
The first team from any landlocked African nation to qualify for a senior World Cup – male or female – Zambia will make history in Australia and New Zealand simply by being there.
Don’t expect them to be content, though, with merely taking part. The ambitious Copper Queens have been a fast-emerging power in African women’s football for several years now, and they have every intention of making a lasting impression on their FIFA Women’s World Cup™ debut.
Coach Bruce Mwape typifies this confidence, as was shown when he reacted to his team being drawn against Japan, Spain and Costa Rica by stating bullishly: “To be a champion, you need to beat the best.”
“For me,” the Zambia coach added, “this is the time to show the world that we can play any team in the World Cup. [After the draw] I looked at the teams and thought to myself, ‘We can still make it to the next round’.”
Much of Mwape’s confidence is founded on a potent attack that includes, in Barbra Banda, one of the most exciting strikers in the global game.
But while Banda helped the Copper Queens score seven times in three appearances at their debut Olympics in 2021, they crashed out after conceding 15 – an average of five per match. Plugging the gaps in that porous defence will be essential if Zambia are to fulfil their coach’s grand ambitions.
Zambia’s Group C fixtures
Zambia-Japan (19:00 local time, Waikato Stadium)
Spain-Zambia (19:30 local time, Eden Park)
Costa Rica-Zambia (19:00 local time, Waikato Stadium)
Mwape’s approach and tactics
A back four has been the one constant for Mwape, who employed a 4-2-3-1 formation at the Olympics but has also switched at times to 4-4-2 and 4-3-3.
While those matches at Tokyo 2020 produced an astonishing average of 7.3 goals per game, recent tournaments have hinted at the striking of a better balance between attack and defence. At the 2022 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, for example, Zambia conceded just three times in six matches en route to finishing third and qualifying for the Women’s World Cup.
Better was to come at the COSAFA Women’s Championship in South Africa later in the year, which the Copper Queens won on the back of four clean sheets in their five matches. And while the level of opposition at Australia & New Zealand 2023 will provide a sterner test to that defence, these recent successes offer encouragement that Mwape has found a formula that will enable Zambia to compete.
🎯 🎯🎯🎯🎯🎯 First player to score consecutive hat-tricks in a single Women’s #OlympicFootball tournament
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ Equalled Christine Sinclair’s record six-goal tally in 2012
👏🏽 Congratulations Zambia captain Barbra Banda 🇿🇲@Copper_Queens | #Tokyo2020 | #Olympics pic.twitter.com/aQLXdNcslX
— FIFA Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWC) July 24, 2021
Key player: Barbra Banda
Banda’s was the name on everyone’s lips after Tokyo 2020, when she became the first player in Women’s Olympic Football Tournament history to score back-to-back hat-tricks. The striker, who plays her club football in China with Shanghai Shengli, showed then – and has shown since – that she possesses all the attributes needed to become one of the Women’s World Cup’s standout players.
Her importance to Zambia cannot be underestimated. Although they qualified without her, it was an unusually low-scoring campaign from a team that, with their star striker, might well have won the WAFCON for the first time. As if to prove the point, Banda returned for the COSAFA Cup and fired the Copper Queens to the title with ten goals in five appearances – twice as many as her nearest challenger in that tournament’s top-scorer race.
She is, at just 23, already one of the women’s game’s most natural and prolific goalscorers. A stellar Women’s World Cup would merely cement Banda’s place among the sport’s superstars.
One to watch: Evarine Katongo
Still only 20, this impressive midfield all-rounder is considered one of Africa’s brightest emerging talents. Katongo was outstanding at the WAFCON, producing all-action performances that drew comparisons to France’s tireless 2018 FIFA World Cup™ hero N’Golo Kante.
Having spoken of her desire to play for a European superpower, and using the platform of the Women’s World Cup to earn herself that move, Katongo has even more reason to make a splash Down Under.
🇿🇲 @Copper_Queens @FAZFootball, Evarine Katongo, what does #BeyondGreatness mean to you? pic.twitter.com/o6JOdq5DSX
— Fatma Samoura (@fatma_samoura) March 8, 2023
Women’s World Cup history
This will be Zambia’s first appearance at the global showpiece.