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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Fearless Zambia entertain despite lopsided defeat to Netherlands

The Zambia women’s national football team ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided 10-3 result against Netherlands in their opening match at the 2020 Olympics women’s football tournament on Wednesday, but the Copper Queens showed plenty of promise in their performance. Star forward Barbra Banda scored the first ever goal for the Zambian women’s side at the Olympics in the first half and followed it up with two goals in quick succession in the second half, but Zambia’s adventurous style of play saw them punished by a ruthless Dutch attack that had the Netherlands up 6-1 by halftime.

Zambia’s coaching staff indicated prior to the match that Shepolopolo would look to be compact against the experienced Dutch team, but the opposite appeared to be the case. In the opening minutes the debutants pushed forward fearlessly and maintained a high defensive line that led to entertaining football and goals were soon to arrive. However, the benefactors were the Netherlands with three goals in the opening 15 minutes. In the 9th minute Zambia keeper Hazel Nali came out of her penalty area to clear a bouncing ball but missed her header, allowing Arsenal forward Vivianne Miedema to tap into an empty net.

Two goals in two minutes starting in the 14th made it 3-0 Netherlands with through passes unlocking the Zambian defense and leaving Nali stranded in 1v1 situations. Before twenty minutes were up, the historic moment came for the Copper Queens when Esther Siamfuko put in an aerial ball behind the Dutch defense. Banda timed her run perfectly and latched on as the Dutch keeper missed her clearance to slot into the empty net.

Courageous defending and goalkeeping kept the Dutch at bay for ten minutes, a spell during which Zambia’s Grace Chanda unleashed a long curling effort from 30 yards out that clipped the crossbar on its way over. By the 30th minute the Dutch resumed their goalscoring with Miedema completing her first half hat trick with a chest down and finish from a cross before two more goals from the Netherlands gave them a five-goal lead at halftime.

Netherlands pushed on after the break and took advantage of a clearly tired Zambian defense who became more and more disorganized as they struggled to contain the regular waves of Dutch attacks. Minutes 59 through 80 saw Netherlands tally four goals through a mix of getting behind Zambia’s back line as well as taking advantage of misplays on the ball by Shepolopolo.

Banda would not be denied for the entire second half and Zambia’s star player completed a remarkable hat trick in the final ten minutes, scoring in the 82nd and 83rd minutes. The woman who plays her club football in China was on the receiving end of a through ball and cleverly rounded the keeper, just slipping her finish from a tight angle off a retreating defender for Zambia’s second. The third goal from Banda came through pure strength and effort, the striker catching a Dutch defender in possession before advancing and finishing with a low shot under the keeper to make it 10-3.

Zambia will take on China on Saturday in their next attempt to get their first points in Group F. Highlights of the goals are below.