Zambia’s women’s national team have achieved much in the last year with a sterling showing at the Tokyo Olympics, a first bronze medal at the 2022 African Women’s Cup of Nations and prized qualification for the 2023 FIFA World Cup that will put them back on the global stage.
But the one thing that has remained elusive for the side is the HOLLYWOODBETS COSAFA Women’s Championship and it is a trophy they will be desperate to win when the latest instalment of the competition is played in Nelson Mandela Bay from August 31-September 11.
The Copper Queens took silver in 2019 and bronze last year, the closest they have come to the coveted regional prize.
But they may feel they have never had a better chance than in 2022 as the team rides the crest of a wave that have seen them become one of the leading sides on the continent.
Right-back Margaret Belemu is one of those who is optimistic they can achieve their aims with a squad that contains a number of players who competed in the recent Wafcon finals in Morocco.
“The preparations are going OK, everyone is pushing in camp and the competition [for places] is high,” she said. “The new players want to find their way into the first team, so the competition is very high.
“I think looking at how we performed in the Wafcon, everyone is expecting a lot from us and I’m very confident we can win the COSAFA Women’s Championship. We have never won it before, I believe this is our time to win it.”
She says the tournament will also be good preparation for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. That competition is to be played between July 20-August 20, meaning this may be the last tournament Zambia compete in before then to give them that experience of ‘finals football’.
“Looking at our team, It has not changed that much, the majority of the players were at the Wafcon.
The experience will be great and we are using this tournament to prepare for the World Cup,” Belemu says.
The Copper Queens have been drawn into a tricky pool along with Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho, with only the top side in the group guaranteed a place in the semifinals. It provides little room for error.
“The group is tough, we are not underrating any team,” Belemu says. “Looking at our game against Namibia last time [a 3-0 win in 2021], it was very tough and this time they will come with full force. But I know how our team is, we will fight because this time we want to win the trophy.”
Zambia get their tournament under way against Namibia on September 1 at the iconic Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.