By MICHAEL MIYOBA
EXACTLY 33 years after Zambia was represented at the Olympic Games by the men’s soccer team, a Zambian team returns at the tournament with the women’s football team Copper Queens competing in the women’s Olympic football tournament.
The Copper Queens as they are fondly known are Africa’s sole representatives at the Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan and will face the Netherlands in the group F fixture at Miyagi Stadium.
Led by coach Bruce Mwape, Zambia holds the underdog tag going into today’s first ever meeting against the European champions, Netherlands as the tournament starts while the official opening is on Friday.
However, Mwape believes it is possible for Zambia to upset the odds by winning their first game against the Netherlands who are one of the favorites in Group F which has Brazil and China.
“We expect our players to perform well at this competition. We are meeting a team which has a lot of experience and our aim is to play a more compact game because if we let them loose they may use their experience to punish us.
“They can have experience but if we play according to our plans I think things can be 50-50. Some people think we have come here as underdogs. We can be underdogs but from the way we started our qualifying games up to the stage we reached there was a lot of improvements,” Mwape said. Mwape will be hoping that his 22-member squad led by captain Barbra Banda will rise to the occasion to deliver the needed win for Zambia to make Africa proud.
Meanwhile, Banda, who plays for Chinese club Shanghai Shengli said the Copper Queens are not under pressure facing The Netherlands today.
Banda said the Copper Queens are determined to pick up maximum points in the first game to have a better chance of going past the group stage.
“We are not having any pressure as for now and we are just waiting for the game. Qualifying for the Olympics was amazing and it brought a lot of impact to our women’s football league which has really improved so much,” Banda said.
Motivated by their Olympics qualifying journey were they defeated 2019 women’s World Cup representatives, Cameroon in the play-off and Africa’s record nine-time champions Nigeria to take the sought-after Olympics slot, Zambia will seek to continue on their trajectory as giant killers.