PREVIEW: Will Zambia cause an upset at the FIFA Women’s World Cup?

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup continues to draw ever nearer, as millions look to see their country clinch the elusive trophy come August 20. Yet despite being home to more than 17% of the world’s population, Africa will have just four representatives at this summer’s tournament.

One of eight teams making their debut at the competition this year is Zambia. The Copper Queens are the lowest-ranked team competing this summer, but if recent results are anything to go by, they’re more than capable of progressing from their tough group.

Pace, pace and more pace

Zambia’s not-so-hidden talent is the unbelievable pace possessed by their front three. While Bruce Mwepe’s side are more than capable of neat buildup play, having sheer speed upfront offers yet another dimension to their attacking threat.

This was demonstrated perfectly as they stunned Germany in a friendly. Barbra Banda was in her own half when she received the ball from Irene Lungu, turning into somewhat of a rocketship as she tore down on goal before chipping Merle Frohms from distance to seal a sensational victory.

While friendlies aren’t always indicative of how a team will perform during a tournament, Zambia have demonstrated that they’re more than capable of finding the back of the net against the second-best team in the world – according to the latest FIFA rankings. They’ll feel confident of progressing from their group this summer.

The new kid on the block

Zambia have only really begun to make a name for themselves on the world stage in the last decade or so, and it’s culminated in their debut Women’s World Cup appearance. In fact, their first continental appearance only came in 2014 – as they lost all three of their group stage games in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

They missed out on qualification entirely two years later, but claimed their first match win in 2018. That still wasn’t enough to progress from their group though, meaning attention turned to the postponed Olympics. That too was a disappointment, with the Copper Queens failing to record a win in Japan.

But there’s an air of optimism surrounding this Zambian side as they head down under, largely as a result of their third-placed finish at the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. Women’s football is clearly on the rise in Zambia, and this feels like the best opportunity they’ve ever had to impress internationally.

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The potential opponents

Zambia have been placed in Group C for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. That means they’ll be based in New Zealand and will face competition from Japan, Spain and Costa Rica if they’re to make it out of the group.

Japan have pedigree in this competition, but results have declined since their sensational win in 2011. Four years later, they took home the silver medals – though they were eliminated in the round-of-sixteen in the 2019 edition.

The Nadeshiko will be looking to bring an end to their worsening results, and will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for Zambia as they make their debut World Cup appearance on July 22.

Spain are favourites to top the group, and are seen by many as potential contenders for the title. La Roja have been shrouded in controversy recently, with the ‘las 15’ scandal attracting worldwide media interest – but on the pitch, Jorge Vilda’s side is packed to the rafters with world-class talent.

The return of Ona Batlle, Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas is huge for Spain – with the Barcelona trio likely to be key figures within the camp. With the latter having just returned from a serious injury, it’ll be interesting to see how she fares and what level of involvement she’s offered.

Costa Rica, despite being ranked within the world top 40, are likely to finish fourth in Group C. Las Ticas have endured inconsistent form as of late – despite a fourth-place finish at last year’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

Should Zambia progress from their group, they’d face an opponent from Group A. That means they’d face either New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland or the Philippines. With Spain expected to top Group C, if Zambia finished second, they’d face the winners of Group A – which is likely to be Norway.

If you’d like more information on Zambia’s potential opponents, we’ve compiled a handy comprehensive guide to every team competing in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – you can read that by clicking this link.

FromTheSpot will be bringing you coverage of every game throughout the FIFA Women’s World Cup, including previews and detailed reports. We’ll cover games in the buildup to the tournament too, so you can get a feel for the potential favourites ahead of action getting underway in Australia and New Zealand.