The Copper Queens’ Olympic dream will be on the line this afternoon (Thursday) when they face the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon away in Yaonde in the final round, first leg encounter at the Omnisports Stadium.
Coach Bruce Mwape’s lasses have never been this close to Olympic qualification and will know that a good outing in Yaonde will draw them closer to the Promised Land.
It has been by every standard an epic journey that has seen the Copper Queens break new ground by becoming one of two remaining teams in the qualifiers on the continent.
During this march the team reached its first ever Cosafa women final and have been on an unbelievable run in the Olympic race.
In their previous encounters the team saw off Zimbabwe whom they beat 5-0 at home before being handed a walk-over in the return leg after the mighty warriors suffered a player boycott at home.
Zambia then tackled the mares of Botswana who they beat 1-0 and 2-0 at home and away respectively to book a date with Kenya.
Botswana eliminated the highly rated Banyana Banyana of South Africa.
In Nairobi the rampaging Copper Queens were held to a 2-all draw before finishing off Kenya 1-0 in Lusaka to earn a date with the indomitable lionesses in the final qualifying round.
Mwape will be looking to the inspirational Barbara Banda who has had a spell in the Primera Division Femenina of Spain with EDF Logrono before trekking to the more financially catered for Chinese league where she is on the books of Shanghai.
Skipper Misozi ‘CR7’ Zulu who plies her trade in Kazakhstan with regular UEFA campaigners BIIK Kazygurt will also be key in the Copper Queens drive for Olympic glory.
Goalie Hazel Nali will have to be at her best to stave off the threat posed by Cameroon while at the back Lushomo Mweemba, Anita Mulenga, Margaret Belemu and Martha Tembo will be expected to step up in a game whose stakes will be higher.
In midfield Rhodah Chileshe will be expected to deploy the best of her workhorse attitude with either Judith Lungu or the more fluid Ireene ‘Sevilla’ Lungu joining her at the heart of the midfield.
Mwape will be expected to get the best out of the genius of the diminutive Mary Mwakapila who on her day does light up the set up with her pin-point crosses.
Upfront Mwape could partner the jet-heeled Rachael Nachula and Hellen Mubanga while the prolific Grace Chanda will complete the attack.
Zambia should be wary of the threat posed by Valerenga striker Ajara Nchout who was runner up in the race for the 2019 African Women Footballer of the Year.
She has been in terrific form in the qualifiers having contributed three goals in the campaign so far.
Others to look out for are Gabrielle Onguene who is on the books of CSKA Moscow and Deborah Enganamouit who plays for Malaga in Spain.
Kickoff for the match is at 16:30 hours Central African Time.
The return leg is set for Nkoloma Stadium next Tuesday with the winner over two legs qualifying to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games while the losing team will face Chile in the play-offs.