Namibia, Zambia battle for Women’s AFCON qualification

Namibia and Zambia will do battle over another 90 minutes for a place at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Morocco in July when they clash in the second leg of their qualifier at the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto, South Africa on Tuesday.

The match, which kicks off at 15h00 (CAT), will be streamed live on COSAFA.TV and the Facebook page of the Namibia Football Association.

The teams cancelled each other out in a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Lusaka on Wednesday, meaning it is all to play for in the return with the winner to advance to the continental finals and stay on course for a potential place at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

That first leg was a hard-fought encounter with both sides having their chances to win it, though there is no doubt that Zambia missed the talismanic figure of star striker Barbra Banda, who will also be out of the second leg with injury.

“If you compare with Barbra, there’s a significant difference between her and the ones we are using now. But there is nothing we can do. These are the players we’ve got, so we just have to push them,” Zambia coach Bruce Mwepu said.

The Copper Queens do still have the likes of Grace Chanda and Maylan Mulenga and might expect a bit more of an open Namibian side, who will be the ‘Home’ team despite the game being played in neutral Soweto.

Namibia coach Woody Jacobs was pleased with the goalless draw in the first leg, but will also be aware that should Zambia score, it will mean his side have to net twice to advance.

“The most important thing for me is that we can go away from Zambia and have the second match relevant in the sense that we were not overawed,” Jacobs said. “I know we must be the happier of the two teams, but there’s still work to do. We want to qualify for AFCON, but in front of us is a formidable side.

“I’m proud of the way the girls got stuck in and stopped an extremely dangerous Zambian side. We are looking forward to the second match. It’s good to come away from a difficult place with a draw.”

While Zambia might be missing Banda, Namibia do have their leading light in the form of playmaker Zenatha Coleman, who can be a match-winner on her day.

“The Zambians did a good defensive job on her, but I’m not too worried because I know how decisive she can be at any given moment,” Jacobs said.

“I’m relying more on the quality of the team rather than individuals. We need to play better and not give the ball away as much as we did, because you can only defend so well for so long. We need to get stronger, and we will be stronger for the next match.”

Jacobs says he hopes for a little more luck for his side in the second leg and believes they can get the goals they need to advance.

“At times we were riding our luck [in the first leg], especially the first half, but the second half we came back strong.

“It was a case of horses for courses. We knew we had to defend well and limit our mistakes, which is what we did. We didn’t get on the scoresheet, but with a bit of luck, incisiveness and determination we can get in behind the Zambian defence.”

Namibia’s only previous appearance at the Women’s AFCON was in 2014 when they hosted the competition but exited in the group stages.

Zambia have been to the continental finals on three previous occasions, reaching the quarterfinals in 1995, before group stage exits in 2014 and 2018.

The teams clashed in that 2014 tournament, with the Namibians winning 2-0 on home soil.
They also met in the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship as Zambia ran out 3-0 victors, and at the 2019 edition of the tournament when Zambia again won 3-2.