Zambia will have high hopes of being among the leading contenders when they take part in the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championships in South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay from November 4-14.
The Copper Princesses have been hard at work in training, having started over three weeks ago, though they did have a 10-day break before returning to fine-tuning their play under the watchful eye of coach Kaluba Kangwa.
The team have been involved in a number of friendlies as Kangwa looks to rebuild the team from the that finished third in Mauritius last year.
There is plenty of attacking threat, not least with the likes of the impressive Cindy Banda, who will be one to watch in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“Mental strength is what we want them to have,” Kangwa told ZamFoot. “I mean the girls are going for COSAFA but definitely we know that the days are very little, especially dealing with young ones and recovering from issues surrounding the COVID-19.
“Our key focus now is to make sure that we strengthen specific departments of the team, from the goalkeeping to defence, midfield and attacking, and perhaps the general coordination of the entire team.
“There is that difference [in fitness] between those who have been with us because they know what it takes and they still have those elements of fitness around them. The fitness levels will continue improving and improving.”
Kangwa says they are under no illusions that the idea is to bring home the trophy.
“We are going to be ready for the challenges ahead. Remember that our first priority as Under-17s at every event is to make sure that we make the progression for the players. They have to grow in the mind, they have to grow on how they are going to play the game. They have to grow in the management of the game itself.
“And besides that our key element is also to make sure that we achieve the goals from the Football Association of Zambia. And this goal is to make sure that we mould a team and a group that is going to bring trophies because we want to create a great champion in the hearts of the girls in such a way that we want to make sure that when they graduate to Under-20 and senior team, they would have been strong champions at heart here.”
Zambia are the only other nation from the region after South Africa to appear at the FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup after they contested the 2014 finals in Costa Rica.
They will dream of a return again, and will look to the COSAFA Women’s Under-17 Championship to lay the platform for building a squad towards that.
They managed to earn the bronze medal last time out as they showed plenty of guts to earn a point in their pool opener against eventual winners Uganda that finished 1-1.
That was followed by big wins over Comoros Islands (15-0) and Mauritius (8-0) to earn a place in the semifinals.
There they came up against hosts and old nemesis South Africa, but lost 2-1, before going on to claim a 3-0 success against Botswana in the third-place play-off.
Zambia first entered the running for World Cup qualification in 2008, but lost 6-0 on aggregate to Ghana in the preliminary round, and then skipped the 2010 qualifiers.
Zambia defeated Botswana 7-1 in the 2012 qualifiers, but then lost by the same margin on aggregate to Nigeria in the next stage.
They beat Botswana again 8-3 on aggregate in the first stage ahead of the 2014 finals, and were surprise 6-4 aggregate winners over South Africa following a 3-3 home draw and a 3-1 away win.
They sealed their place in Costa Rica, where they put in a decent showing. They lost their first two games to Italy (0-2) and Venezuela (0-4), but did beat the hosts 2-1 in their last match.
Zambia withdrew from the 2016 qualifiers ahead of their tie with South Africa, and then were surprise 6-5 aggregate losers to Botswana despite leading 5-2 from the first leg.
They had a walkover against Namibia in the latest round of qualifying, but then lost 3-2 on aggregate to South Africa despite winning the first leg 2-0 at home.