06 November 2018 06:52
Zambia defied the odds to pull off a dramatic qualification job to Ghana. It was a tough qualifying run considering that Shepolopolo didn’t win a single home game over the two rounds en route Ghana where they will vie for honours in Cape Coast-based Group B with holders Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
In the First Round first leg on April 4, Shepolopolo were away in Tanzania to face the Twiga Stars in Dar es Salaam where they rallied twice to finish 3-3. Five days later in Lusaka, the Zambians ejected Tanzania on away goals after a 1-1 home draw in Lusaka.
But the Twiga Stars gave Shepolopolo a good run for their money to the finals slot especially after the visitors late second half equalizer through Mwanahamis Omar in the 71st minute to cancel out their lead following Rachel Kundananji ‘s second minute goal.
A final round date with regional foes, Zimbabwe followed in June, with the latter winning the first leg 1-0 in Lusaka.
However, Shepolopolo pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the second leg when they battled from a goal down at halftime at Rufaro Stadium in Harare to record a 2-1 victory and secure their first Women’s AFCON return since Namibia 2014.
Meanwhile, Shepolopolo have had a busy September and October in the build-up to the final tournament in Ghana.
They put some competitive mileage under their belts with participation in the regional COSAFA Women’s Championship in held in Port Elizabeth, South Africa from 12-22 September 2018 where they were in Group B with Lesotho, Mozambique and guest team, Cameroon.
Shepolopolo were unbeaten in the group stage winning the pool on a maximum 9 points, scoring six goals that they garnished with a perfect defensive record.
Their highlight Group B triumph was a big kill over guest team Cameroon whom they beat 1-0 in their penultimate fixture.
But Cameroon broke Shepolopolo’s hearts in the semis when Zambia lost by the same margin on September 20.
“Beating and then losing to Cameroon was a big eye opener at the COSAFA Championship,” Shepolopolo goalkeeper Hazel Nali said.
“They are one of the biggest teams in Africa and after playing them twice each player in the team picked up some important lessons from that experience as we head to Ghana.”
The Zambians will settle for fourth place at the regional championship after a 1-0 loss to Uganda, another guest team in the third place match.
Bruce Mwape's side then took a three week break after the COSAFA outing and re-grouped for a three week residential camp in Lusaka that began on October 14. They beat Ghana 3-2 in a friendly last Saturday in Lusaka, and are expected to hold a training camp in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, en route to Ghana.