By MICHAEL MIYOBA
THE Zambia national women’s soccer team has failed to reach the finals of the 2021 COSAFA women’s championship after suffering a 3-2 penalty shootout defeat to Tanzania following a 1-1 stalemate at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Copper Queens had to come from a goal down to draw with Tanzania for penalties to decide the finalist.
Elizabeth Mapeso, and Agness Musase converted their spot kicks while, defenders Margret Belemu, Lushomo Mwemba and Lubanji Oseke missed theirs as Tanzania progressed to the finals after scoring through Lunia Milla, Sulumane and Tukumbuke.
Zambia who beat eSwatini, Namibia and Uganda in Group C to reach the semifinals started the match on a slow pace but came close to finding the back of the net through Belemu who sent her shot over the bar three minutes after kick off.
Zambia had another opportunity to break the deadlock in the seventh minute but were unlucky as Elizabeth Mupeso’s free kick was cleared for safety by the East Africans.
The Copper Queens failed to contain the Tanzanian pressure and were unlucky to concede an own goal through defender Lushomo Mweemba in the 16th minute.
Captain Grace Chanda tried to get the equaliser but her shot on goal was blocked by the Tanzania defence in the 24th minute.
Mweemba tried to make amends for the own goal and attempted to find the back of the net with a free kick which went over the bar before Grace Chanda saw her shot from outside the 18-yard being saved by Janeth Simba four minutes after the half-hour mark.
The Copper Queens came back strong in the second half and came close to getting the equaliser through defender Vast Phiri’s long range shot went wide.
Zambia finally got the equaliser through Chanda who beat the goal keeper with a long range strike in the 69th minute.
In the dying minutes of the games, the Tanzanian coach substituted his first choicegoalkeeper Janeth Shija Simba for Zubeda Mgunda who went on to be the hero of the day after saving three penalties to propel Tanzania to the finals.
Tanzania will now meet South Africa in the final while Zambia will face Malawi for a third place finish.