ZAMBIA’S Copper Queens saw their maiden Olympic Games adventure come to an end on Tuesday but not before another typically stubborn show against one of the global heavyweights of women’s football, Brazil.
Despite being forced to play most of the match, a player down, after losing one of their defenders to a contentious red card, and then seeing their ‘keeper stretchered off, the Zambians produced a fighting performance, as they went down 0-1.
The result, coupled with their 4-4 draw against China and 3-10 thrashing, at the hands of the Netherlands, meant the end of the road for their Olympics adventure.
It has been a stunning turnaround for the Zambians, whose rise as a force has coincided with the fall from grace of the Mighty Warriors, who are now barely recognisable as the team which represented Africa at the last Olympics in Brazil, five years ago.
The Mighty Warriors had, ironically, knocked the Zambians in the qualifiers, for the 2016 Olympics, after overturning a 1-2 deficit, from the first leg, to beat their opponents 1-0 in Harare, and book a third round place, on the away goals rule.
A 1-6 thrashing, at the hands of Germany, gave the Mighty Warriors a baptism of fire, about football at this level, before they showed great fighting spirit, in their next match, a 1-3 loss to Canada.
However, they were well beaten 1-6, in their final group match, by Australia.
Still, the Mighty Warriors charmed the world, by scoring in each of their matches in Brazil, and there was a feeling this was a team which would be regular participants, at such prestigious tournaments.
However, since then, the team have lost their way, crippled by administrators who have virtually abandoned them, and their humiliation was completed when they were hammered 0-5 by Zambia, in Lusaka, in the qualifiers, for the Tokyo Olympics.
But, the worst was to come, a week later, when the Mighty Warriors boycotted a match, which they were set to host against the Zambians, with the Zimbabwean players refusing to take to the field, in protest over unpaid dues.
From playing against some of the best teams, and players, in the world, just five years ago, the Mighty Warriors now can’t even afford to win a match at the COSAFA Cup.
In their last appearance, at the regional tournament, in December last year, they departed to the competition without even a win, or a goal, to their credit.
Now, they can only watch, from a distance, as the Zambians take on the likes of superstars, like Brazilian forward Marta, widely regarded as the greatest female footballer of all-time.
A winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award six times, including five times on the trot, Marta was part of the Brazilian side which struggled to break down the resilient Zambian team on Tuesday.
‘’It was a great performance at the Olympics by our Copper Queens. Despite bowing out of the tournament, there are many positives to pick from the young ladies,’’ said Zambian President Edgar Lungu.
‘’One word that describes their performance today (on Tuesday) is resilience. Despite the red card and a nasty injury to our goalkeeper, the girls remained resilient against a strong opponent.
‘’You are a quintessence or hard work, which is the true Zambian spirit. You kept your chin up against the best in the world. You are world class yourselves. Well done girls.
‘’You have represented your country and continent well and we are proud of you.’’
The Zambians conceded 15 goals, in their three matches, the same number which the Mighty Warriors conceded in Brazil.
The Copper Queens’ historic Olympics tournament journey came to an end after they suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of heavyweights Brazil.
Coach Bruce Mwape made two changes to the team that played out to a 4-4 draw with China as Martha Tembo and Margaret Belemu came in to replace Esther Siamfuko and Mary Wilombe.
The Copper Queens started strongly with Barbra Banda, Avell Chitundu, and Rachel Kundananji all testing Barbara in the Brazil goal in the first seven minutes.
— Sports Reporter/Zamfoot.