PREVIEW: Zambia v Japan – FIFA Women’s World Cup Team News, Predicted Lineups and Where to Watch

Zambia will make their FIFA Women’s World Cup debut at the 2023 event, with football very much on the rise in the African nation. Bruce Mwape guided his side to a third-place finish at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, and they’ll look to turn continental success into a positive showing on the global stage.

As debutants, and the lowest-ranked side at this summer’s tournament, the pressure is very much off Zambian shoulders. But there is an unshakeable sense of belief surrounding the camp, as they harbour dreams of a spectacular upset in an immensely difficult group containing Japan, Spain and Costa Rica.

Mwape has plenty of lethal weapons within his arsenal, including Barbra Banda and Racheal Kundananji. The attacking duo are simply rapid, and as demonstrated in Zambia’s shock win against Germany, they’re able to use this pace to their advantage to leave defences in tatters.

But this Japanese side is also capable of progressing deep into the latter stages of this tournament, and they’ll feel that they’ve somewhat of a point to prove after a disappointing early exit in 2019. Having been crowned as world champions in 2011, and reaching the final in 2015, elimination in the round-of-sixteen four years ago was seen as a failure for the Nadeshiko, who will look to make amends and restore glory to the Asian nation.

It’d be overly optimistic to say that Japan are likely to reach the final – that’s a berth reserved for the likes of Spain, Australia, the United States and Germany. At the very least though, Japan must reach the round-of-sixteen again to bring an end to their decline; reaching the quarterfinals would be a very respectable result for Futoshi Ikeda’s side.

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Team news

Zambia have been dealt a huge blow ahead of their opening game, with goalkeeper Hazel Nali having ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament. Japan have a fully fit squad to utilise, with no major injury concerns ahead of their opening match.

Predicted lineups

Zambia: Musonda; Tembo, Mweemba, Musase, Belemu; Katongo, S Banda, Lubandji; Kundananji, B. Banda, Chitundu

Japan: Yamashita; Minami, Kumagai, Ishikawa; Endo, Nagano, Hasegawa, Shimizu; Miyazawa, Tanaka, Fujino

Where can I watch?

Kickoff at Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium is scheduled for 8am UK time on Saturday, 22 July 2023. The coverage will begin at 7:45am on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer. If you’re unable to watch the match, fear not – we’ll have a detailed match report published within minutes of the final whistle.