Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
THE southern African region women’s national football teams – South Africa, Zambia and Botswana – carry the region’s hopes when the Africa Women Cup of Nations gets underway in Morocco next month.
The Africa Women Cup of Nations finals will run from July 2 to July 23.
And the COSAFA region is represented by Banyana Banyana of South Africa, Zambia’s She-polopolo and debutants the Mares of Botswana.
Zimbabwe are not part of the showcase after they lost out to Botswana on aggregate in the last qualifying round in February.
Even if the Mighty Warriors had qualified they could have still relinquished their slot to the neighbours after Zimbabwe were banned from playing international football by FIFA in February.
Interestingly, South Africa and Botswana were drawn in the same group which is also ”the Group of Death” at the tournament.
They are in Group C with record champions Nigeria and debutants Burundi.
Nigerian Super Falcons denied South Africa their first-ever African Women Cup title in 2018, then the two met teams played in the finals. Nigeria beat South Africa in the penalties to win the continental title.
Zambia also go into this tournament with expectations due to their Olympic performance at the Tokyo Games.
Zambia skipper Barbra Banda made history by becoming the first female African player to score three goals at the Games.
Banda is expected to lead the Copper Queens in their group where they meet arch-rivals Cameroon, who they defeated in the Olympic play-off to qualify for the Summer Games.
Zambia, Cameroon, Tunisia and Togo are in Group A.
The hosts’ Morocco headlines Group A that also has Burkina Faso, Senegal and Uganda.
Despite teams from the southern region claiming their space in women’s football by qualifying for the Olympics thus South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the continental title has remained elusive.
A lot is expected from South Africa and Zambia at the tournament. And Banyana Banyana have thoroughly prepared for the women’s tournament by playing against Netherlands and Nigeria in the friendly matches.