Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mwape: Zambia can challenge anyone at the World Cup

Zambia coach tells FIFA that his team will be aiming to “shake the whole world” at their debut FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Zambia's coach Bruce Mwape arrives for the football draw ceremony of the Australia and New Zealand 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on October 22, 2022. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Zambia coach Bruce Mwape has been speaking to FIFA
  • He reflected on the landmark achievement of reaching the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
  • Mwape also discussed talisman Barbra Banda and his belief that the Copper Queens “can go far”

“History in the making” is how Bruce Mwape describes it, and he’s not exaggerating.

His side aren’t just the first to represent Zambia at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, after all. No team from the country, or from any other landlocked African nation, had ever qualified for a men’s or women’s global finals before Mwape’s Copper Queens claimed that distinction.

But while this momentous achievement, on the back of a maiden Women’s Olympic Tournament and first-ever podium finish at the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, has already secured Zambia’s coach a place in national legend, he is anything but satisfied.

Mwape, as he told FIFA, is intent instead on “shaking the whole world” by flooring heavyweight opponents and creating fresh history on the global stage.

Bruce, how are you feeling ahead of Zambia’s first World Cup?

Yeah, I feel good. We are the first to qualify – even Zambia’s men’s team have never made it to a World Cup – so it feels good because we are actually writing history. This is all history in the making. I’m sure that when the time comes for me to leave [this job], people will at least know that I did something good by taking this team to the World Cup. That’s something special to me.

Tell us about the journey to reach this point.

We have come such a long way from the time I was appointed. The first assignment back then was to qualify a team for the WAFCON, which I did, but now we have qualified for the WAFCON twice, the Olympics and the World Cup. That’s a credit, as far as I’m concerned, to the coaching staff and the players. After all, getting to the World Cup is not easy. We played very, very tough teams [at the WAFCON], two or three of which have been to the World Cup several times. It was only through hard work that we made it.

Barbra Banda, your star player, missed that WAFCON but is back with the squad now. What can you tell us about her as a player?

Barbra is the captain of the side and, from the time I started coaching this team, she’s one player who has improved tremendously. She’s one of our most dependable players. She’s also a fighter, and a person who doesn’t like to lose. She wants to win all the time and she’s got that fighting spirit. She’s also able to organise her fellow players in an accommodative way and she encourages everyone, whether it’s senior players or youngsters.

You’ve mentioned before that courage will be the most important ingredient for your team at the Women’s World Cup. Why is that?

We will be relying on that because this team doesn’t just depend on one player. When we went to the WAFCON, some of our key players weren’t there. But we were able to reach the semi-finals all the same because the players who were there didn’t play as if we were missing anyone. They played according to our plan and, going forward, I’m sure they’ll do the same. We want to play as a team and maintain our standards. If we do that, I’m sure we can go far.

How do you think participating in this World Cup will change football in Zambia?

It will change things for sure. In fact, qualifying for the World Cup has already changed football in Zambia. There are so many girls back home who are now who are now interested in playing football, and all of them want to play for the national team. There are a lot of teams that have now formed because girls have seen that, ok, this might be possible and something worth aiming for. I’m very happy about that.

You face Spain, Costa Rica and Japan in the group stage at Australia & New Zealand 2023. What did you make of that draw?

It’s tough because we are playing some teams that have played in these competitions at a high level several times. They’ve got experience that we don’t have, and their players have been exposed to these kind of tournaments. But although we are just coming up, what I will say is we don’t just want to add numbers to the tournament. From the little experience we have gained, I think we are able to challenge any team. It won’t be easy, but it’s others thinking we’ll go there as underdogs. As far as I’m concerned, we are going to compete.

What would success look like for Zambia at the World Cup?

Success at the World Cup will actually shake the whole world, because if we do well, I’m sure people will be surprised. Some of them won’t even know where Zambia is. For them, it will be a case of looking at a world map to find out. But nothing is impossible. The results can go either way – and victory is possible.

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