Group B leaders Zambia take on bottom side Togo with everything to play for in their final group game in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Copper Queens sit atop of the group on four points, while Togo only have one point and need a win if they want to progress to the quarter-finals in their first ever appearance at the tournament.
Zambia get the job done without Banda
In the build up to the tournament, the noise around the Zambia squad was all about captain and talisman Barbra Banda. The back-to-back hat-trick scorer at the Tokyo Olympics was ruled out of the competition under “gender eligibility” rules.
Banda alongside Racheal Nachula and Racheal Kundananji, were ruled out of the competition in a decision that the Zambian FA have since complained about and appealed to FIFA and CAF to overturn the decision.
Bruce Mwape’s side followed it up with a 5-0 loss to a now knocked-out Uganda side in their final pre-tournament friendly. But despite their multiple set backs, the Copper Queens drew with group favourites Cameroon and followed it up with a last minute victory over Tunisia putting them top of the group.
The Zambians defended well against Cameroon and despite leaving it late against Tunisia, put on a dominant display against the North Africans. In the absence of Banda players have had to step up, chief among those is Grace Chanda.
The forward who plays her football in Kazakhstan has been a threat throughout the tournament. Despite not scoring yet she has been the Cosafa side’s best player going forward and can count herself unlucky to have not yet opened her account.
Togo in need of three points
The Sparrowhawks made history in their most recent match as they held group favourites Cameroon to a 1-1 draw and earn their first ever point at the WAFCON. Having taken the lead through a Mafille Woedikou penalty the West Africans held on after Estelle Johnson had equalised.
It was a resolute performance in which they were under the cosh for large stretches of the match. It was also a strong performance that followed their opening day 4-1 loss to Tunisia, the biggest margin seen at the tournament so far.
The Sparowhawks also made an unwanted record in that game as they conceded the quickest goal of the tournament when Mariem Houij scored after 18 seconds.
If Togo want to progress from the group, they have to beat their Southern African rivals tonight in Rabat, but it will be a tall order as the Zambians also are in need of three points to seal top spot and avoid a quarter-final match up against South Africa or Nigeria.
What they said
Zambia head coach Bruce Mwape:
“Togo, the way they played against Cameroon, they actually played well. It wont be an easy game because they also want to finish on a good note. They will want to finish as best runners-up. For us it is a game that we want to win so that we get through to the top of the table.”