Zambia coach Bruce Mwape has refined his provisional squad for the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Championship to be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from July 31-August 11, but there remains a number of places up for grabs.
The She-Polopolo are seeking to lift the regional title for the first time, but will be without star striker Barbra Banda, who has club commitments in Spain.
That will be a blow to Mwape, with the prolific Banda able to unlock just about any defence.
Also missing is former skipper Misozi Zulu, who had hoped to return after a long lay-off with a knee injury.
Mwape also remains undecided on his goalkeepers, with five retained in the provisional squad, and a maximum of three likely to travel to South Africa for the tournament.
This still in the frame areNgambo Musole, Annie Namonje, Dainess Kasunka, Hazel Natasha Nali and Maleta Muwindwa.
Players who starred last year, including midfielderMary Mwakapila, defender Lushomo Mweemba and striker Racheal Nachula, are all likely to be given another chance to impress.
Mwape has also included a few teenagers, including 18 year olds Lubandji Ochumba Oseke, a striker, and Mweemba.
Should they not make the cut for the senior side, they will be in line for selection for the Zambian team that competes in the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship that will also be held in Nelson Mandela Bay from August 1-11.
The provisional squad is dominated by players from Green Buffaloes, with nine named. There are also seven from Red Arrows and five from Indeni Roses.
Zambia have been drawn in Group B at the senior championship and will open their campaign against Mauritius on August 1. They will then take on Namibia two days later, before a meeting with Botswana on August 6.
Only the top team in each pool and the best runner-up advance to the semifinals.
Zambia have enjoyed a recent return to form having qualified for the 2014 and 2018 African Women’s Championships and will want to continue that upward curve at this year’s COSAFA Women’s Championships.
The She-Polopolo have three times before been bronze medallists in the regional showpiece competition, most recently in 2017, but have yet to lift the coveted trophy and that will be a genuine aim of theirs in 2019.
They played in the inaugural competition in 2002 when wins over Malawi (8-0) and Lesotho (3-1) saw them into the semifinals, where they lost 3-1 to South Africa. They beat Mozambique 1-0 to take the bronze medal.
The side topped their pool in 2006 as they drew 2-2 with Namibia and beat Eswatini 7-0, but this time were edged in a penalty shoot-out by the Namibians after a 1-1 draw. They beat old foes Zimbabwe 2-1 to take the bronze again.
The side could not replicate that in 2008 and in 2011 were surprisingly ousted in the pool stages.
They did reach the semifinals in 2017, topping a pool that also included Malawi (6-3), Zimbabwe (1-1) and Madagascar (7-1), but let a 3-0 lead slip against South Africa in the final 13 minutes to lose on penalties.
They then beat East African guest nation Kenya via spot-kicks after a 1-1 draw to seal the bronze medal.
Zambia again breezed through the pool stages in 2018, but came unstuck with a 1-0 loss to Central African guest nation Cameroon in the semifinals, before a loss by the same scoreline to East African guest nation Uganda in the bronze-medal match.
Zambia provisional squad:
Goalkeepers: Ngambo Musole, Annie Namonje, Dainess Kasunka, Hazel Natasha Nali, Maleta Muwindwa
Defenders: Agness Musase, Lushomo Mweemba, Martha Tembo, Jackline Nkole, Anita Mulenga, Grace Nanyinza, Margaret Belemu, Vast Phiri
Midfielders: Grace Chanda, Mary Mwakapila, Rhoda Chileshe, Judith Zulu, Mary Mulenga, Lwendo Chisamu,
Strikers: Hellen Mubanga, Theresa Chewe, Lubandji Ochumba Oseke, Hellen Chanda, Penelope Mulubwa, Racheal Nachula, Avell Chitundu