Tuesday Oct 19, 2021. 11:00
Shepolopolo Zambia commence their Morocco 2022 Women’s AFCON qualifying campaign on Wednesday with a first round, first leg match away to Malawi in Lilongwe.
The 2020 Olympic finalists are seeking to reach an unprecedented second successive Women’s AFCON and third overall after qualifying for the 2014 and 2018 tournaments.
Shepolopolo face a Malawi side fresh off their most successful international run at the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Cup tournament in South Africa where they made their debut top two finish after losing 1-0 to Tanzania in the finals on October 9 in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Striker Rachel Kundananji of Spanish club SD Eibar said Zambia are looking forward to testing Malawi’s post-COSAFA progress where the Sheflames also beat ex-champions Banyana Banyana South Africa 3-2 in the semifinals.
“We are looking forward to a win. You know, Malawi is not an easy team, they are also strong but we are hoping to qualify for AFCON. It is very important for all of us because we want to be qualifying for each and every AFCON now,” Kundananji said.
“Starting away is a good opportunity for us so that we can hold them there and just get the goals to take back for the home leg so that we can deliver in front of our home fans.”
Kundananji is set to lead Zambia’s attack in the absence of captain Barbara Banda of Shanghai Shengli in China who is not available due to Chinese league bubble Covid-19 protocols.
Striker Rachel Nachula of Zaragoza CFF in Spain who was due to end her one year exile will not travel due to administrative reasons.
Also out is Kazakh-based midfielder Prisca Chilufya after her club BIIK Kazygurt declined to release their Shepolopolo call-up.
Kundananji is one of two overseas call-ups to have made the trip out of the five summoned together with Israeli-based goalkeeper Hazel Nali who both return for the first time since July at the Tokyo Olympics.
But coach Bruce Mwape still has ample depth available that includes captain Grace Chanda and her Red Arrows club mate Ochumba Lubanji who both had a great COSAFA where they scored 3 and 4 goals respectively.
Mwape has also kept faith in his entire team that had a solid outing at the COSAFA Women’s Cup where they won Bronze.