Wafcon 2022: Zambia treating World Cup play-off as a 'final'

Zambia will treat their Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) quarter-final against Senegal on Wednesday as a 'final' given the match carries World Cup qualification for the winner.

Zambia beat Togo 4-1 on Saturday night in Casablanca to top Group B, after goals from Grace Chanda (2), Ireen Lungu and Siomara Mapepa, with Cameroon and Tunisia also making it through to the last eight.

All this year's Wafcon quarter-finalists are now known given that Saturday's results guaranteed both Botswana and Nigeria at least a third best-placed finish in Group C, which concludes on Sunday.

Any side reaching the semi-finals in Morocco gain automatic qualification for the 2023 Women's World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, with neither Zambia nor Senegal having played at the global tournament before.

"We want to play as if we're playing the final because once we win that one, automatically we know that we are in the World Cup," Zambia coach Bruce Mwape coach told BBC Sport Africa.

"This game is what we want to play - and we'll be taking it very seriously."

Zambia have put aside distractions over the absence of captain Barbra Banda owing to 'gender eligibility' to emerge unbeaten in the group, with two wins and a draw from their three Group B ties.

Banda was a key figure as Zambia's women made their Olympic debut, scoring back-to-back hat-tricks, and the experience in Tokyo is giving Mwape's charges confidence.

"Any of the so-called big teams in Africa are beatable," he said. "We have prepared adequately for all the teams that come our way and have played against teams like Nigeria and Ghana.

"But with the experience our players have gained from competitions like the Olympics, they can withstand any pressure from any team."

Only the Zambia-Senegal quarter-final line-up has been determined, given that the top three sides in Group C will not be determined until Sunday night.

Cameroon beat Tunisia 2-0 on Saturday in a result that sent both sides through, given that each have registered at least one victory apiece in Morocco.

Tunisia won their opener against Togo but followed with defeats by Zambia and the Indomitable Lionesses, who finally won a game after two previous draws.

Batya Bisi Abam opened the scoring after three minutes but had to wait until the final seconds to seal the win as Inter Milan's Nchout Njoya Ajara finally registered her first goal of these championships.

Togo were making their Wafcon debut at this year's finals and had made it onto African football's biggest female stage despite not playing their first international - after an 11-year break - in 2018.

Led by Kai Tomety, one of a record three female head coaches at the tournament, the Ladies Sparrowhawks were beaten 4-1 in their opener against Tunisia, before gaining a creditable 1-1 draw against three-time runners-up Cameroon, who appeared at the last Women's World Cup.

The Togolese were well-beaten by a Zambian side in good form in Casablanca on Saturday, leaving Tomety to express her 'disappointment' at the early exit.

"We wanted to win the match to reach the second round, but we came across the strongest [of sides]," Komety said afterwards.

"Admittedly, the defence committed many mistakes, which cause these four goals, but I think we have become better organised.

"It's a first participation, and we've seen everything that happens at this level. We're going to learn lessons to prepare the girls for the next one. With the multiplication of training courses and other competitions, I think we will reach the level of the other teams.

"I would say that our performance was quite good, simply because we managed to score at least one goal in each match.

"We conceded four against Tunisia at the start and mistakes led to some of the goals. We also had tactical errors against Zambia, but we had a great match against Cameroon. We will find the remedies to play better."

The Wafcon group stages come to a close on Sunday, when South Africa play Botswana and Nigeria take on Burundi.

Source: BBC

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