Lusaka – Zambia, the only African side contesting for Olympic soccer gold in Tokyo this year, has lined up several international friendlies to prepare for the quadrennial fiesta.
The Copper Queens, variably referred to as Shepolopolo, fear that the suspension of the domestic league due to COVID-19 will disrupt preparations, hence the friendly matches against continental heavyweights Banyana Banyana of South Africa (already played) and another against Kenya. The Kenya game will be followed by matches against global powerhouses Australia and Sweden.
The odds are heavily stacked against the Zambians, who are ranked 104th in the world, but the Copper Queens are daring to dream of Olympic gold.
Zambia have been placed in Group along with the Netherlands, who are ranked the world’s third-best team, Brazil (7th) and China (14th). Only the top two progress from the group.
Shepolopolo coach Bruce Mwape told The Southern Times Sport that he believed his side could punch above its weight.
“Our preparations for the Olympic Games are going on well and we have started playing friendly games. We also intend to play high profile matches with teams like Australia and Sweden.
“I am happy to be in this group because we will be meeting the best teams like Brazil so for us to be the best we need to beat the best,” Mwape said.
He added, “The COVID – 19 pandemic disturbed a lot of programmes for our squad. The local league was suspended so the players had no option but to do individual training from home. It also had a psychological impact because the players weren’t sure whether the Olympics would take place or not.”
The Games were supposed to be held in 2020 but were moved to this year due to the pandemic.