The 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year will see Zambia and South Africa participate with big hopes hinged on their performance.
BY NICK SAID
If there is one thing the coaches of South Africa and Zambia are in agreement on, it is that the hard work starts now as they prepare for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
The draw for the 32-team finals competition was held a few weeks ago, and has not been particularly kind to the two southern African nations.
Debutants Zambia have been paired with Spain, Japan and Costa Rica in Group C, no easy task, but coach Bruce Mwape knows that however they do, the symbolism of seeing the Copper Queens on the global stage is perhaps the important thing.
“There are no easy teams in women’s football at the moment,” Mwape says. “For us, it’s just important to be there, especially as this is our first time.
“The whole country is behind us, supporting the team, and our achievements recently show that there has been a lot of improvement in Zambian football.”
He is correct. The Zambian national side won their first COSAFA senior title in 2022, while the country’s top club Green Buffaloes won the COSAFA Women’s Champions League as well.
These are all big steps forward for the game in Zambia and a major reason why they find themselves at the World Cup too.
Mwape has certainly improved their performance drastically, as has forward Barbra Banda, who was a star of the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year and could have a huge impact at the World Cup.
For South Africa, this competition will be second time round after they had their maiden World Cup qualification in France in 2019.
The core of that group remains in place and as recently-crowned African champions, there will be much expectation that they get out of their pool.
But the draw has not been kind, they face top sides Sweden, Italy and Argentina, with certainly the first two formidable foes. Coach Des Ellis is putting on a brave face.
“I think it’s a reasonable draw,” she said. “We’ve played Sweden before but we haven’t met Italy and Argentina. My feeling is that it could have been tougher.
“Now the planning and preparation starts, making sure the players have as much information as they can.”
The World Cup will be staged from July 20 to August 20, with South Africa canvassing hard to be the hosts of the 2027 tournament. The women’s competition has never been held on the African continent before.