Zambia back to defend regional title amid golden era

Best finish: Winners (2022)
FIFA Ranking: 69
CAF Ranking: 7
Last five tournaments:
2018 – Fourth
2019 – Runners-Up
2020 – Semifinals
2021 – Third
2022 – Winners

Zambia return to the HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Women’s Championship as title holders after their stunning success over South Africa in the 2022 final, gifted to them by an extra-time goal from Barbra Banda.

They won all five games at that competition, scoring 14 goals and conceding just once as they picked up a maiden title in a competition that had frustratingly eluded them in the recent past.

It is part of a golden age in Zambian women’s football, which has also seen a visit to the Olympic Games, third place in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and a debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Zambia played in the inaugural regional tournament in 2002 when wins over Malawi (8-0) and Lesotho (3-1) saw them into the semifinals, where they lost 3-1 to South Africa. They beat Mozambique 1-0 to take the bronze medal.

The side topped their pool in 2006 as they drew 2-2 with Namibia and beat Eswatini 7-0, but this time were edged in a penalty shoot-out in the semifinals by the Namibians after a 1-1 draw. They beat old foes Zimbabwe 2-1 to take the bronze again.

They could not replicate that in 2008 and in 2011 were surprisingly ousted in the pool stages.

They did reach the semifinals in 2017, topping a pool that also included Malawi (6-3), Zimbabwe (1-1) and Madagascar (7-1), but let a 3-0 leading slip against South Africa in the final 13 minutes to lose on penalties.

They then beat East African guest nation Kenya via spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw to seal the bronze medal.

Zambia again breezed through the pool stages in 2018, but came unstuck with a 1-0 loss to Central African guest nation Cameroon in the semifinals, before a loss by the same scoreline to East African guest nation Uganda in the bronze-medal match.

They claimed a team record 15-0 win over Mauritius in their 2019 pool opener, before a 3-2 success over Namibia and 0-0 draw with Botswana ensured they top the pool.

Zambia went on to beat Botswana 4-0 in the semifinals, but were narrow 1-0 losers to South Africa in the decider.

Things did not go to plan in 2020 when they failed to make it out of their pool, beating Lesotho 8-0 but then losing the decisive game to Malawi 1-0.

Zambia won all three group games in 2021 without conceding a goal, but then came unstuck in the semifinals when they lost on penalties to Tanzania. They ended up with the bronze medal, but have since turned that into gold.