Shepolopolo Zambia coach Bruce Mwape says they must adjust and move on after star striker Barbara Banda’s ineligibility to play in the 2022 Women’s AFCON in Morocco.
The news came 48 hours before Shepolopolo’s opening Group B clash against Cameroon in Casablanca on July 3.
CAF has sidelined the Shepolopolo captain on medical grounds, handing Shepolopolo a setback and the development will now see Zambia without their most potent striker for the tournament Morocco is hosting from July 2-23.
“Barbara Banda is one of our best and most dependable players but there is nothing that we can do about this,” Mwape said at Saturday’s pre-match briefing in Casablanca.
“She has been sidelined but don’t forget this is a sporting team of 22 players so the players that we have should be able to deliver.
“Yes, Barbara has done a lot for this team but we still have replacements and we are confident they can do the job.”
Mwape will head into the Sundays match banking on midfielder Grace Chanda who will now captain the team in Morocco.
But that is not the only setback Shepolopolo has heading into their big showdown against Cameroon.
Strikers Xiomala Mapepa and Ochumba Oseke are suspended after accruing two yellow cards each in the qualifiers.
Mwape’s other options include veteran Noria Sosala but she has been a peripheral figure in the pre-tournament friendlies.
And it also looks like utility midfielder Misozi Zulu and newcomer Natasha Nanyangwe together with Chanda may now be pivotal forces in Zambia;s offensive department heading into the Cameroon showdown.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s match is a huge grudge match after Shepolopolo stunned Cameroon in the last meeting on March 10, 2020 when they beat The Indomitable Lionesses 2-1 to qualify for the Olympics on away goals rule following a 4-4 aggregate result.
However, Cameroon and Zambia are even heading into Sunday’s showdown on two wins and two defeats each under Mwape’s watch.
“We have met Cameroon several times. We managed to beat them in the last game in the Olympic qualifiers,” Mwape said.
“We know this won’t be any easy game because they still want to avenge that loss.
“We know the tactics that we will use but we cannot play the same tactics and plans we used against them before.”
Shepolopolo’s next two Group B matches are against Tunisia on July 6 and Togo on July 9.
The top two finishers in each of the three groups plus the two best third placed sides will advance to the quarterfinals of the 12-nation championship.
And semifinal placing will see Zambia qualify to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.