Zambia midfielder Rachael Kundananji believes they have sent a warning to the rest of Africa that they are the best on the continent despite their exit from the Tokyo Olympic Games on Tuesday.
The Copper Queens, who were taking part in the Games for the first time, failed to make it to the quarter-finals after losing 1-0 against Brazil in their final Group F match.
Zambia, led by coach Bruce Mwepu, however, won many hearts despite the exit as they battled to lose 10-3 against Netherlands in the opener and then played out an entertaining 4-4 draw against China in their second match.
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The 21-year-old Kundananji, who was among the star players for Zambia and also scored in the game against China, believes they will now be a force to be reckoned with in major tournaments on the African continent.
“We just want to go to the Awcon and come back with a cup, we have to show them that we are best. We are not losers; we were here [at the Olympics] because we were champions,” Kundananji told Zambia FA media.
“We gained experience. As you can see, we were playing against experienced players, the teams we played against have been together for so many years and they have played at big tournaments.
“It is a great achievement for us. We have improved in defending, attack, and [have been] working together as a team.”
Kundananji, who features for BIIK Kazygurt in Kazakhstan, is confident the Copper Queens will make a second appearance in the Olympic Games next edition.
“Why not? As you can see, we are all young, we are going to qualify to the next Olympics,” continued Kundananji.
The team’s performance in Tokyo also caught the eye of the country's President Edgar Lungu, who hailed their resilience during the games saying they can take many positives and adding he was proud of what they had achieved.
“It was a great performance at the Olympics by our Copper Queens and despite bowing out of the tournament, there are many positives to pick from the young ladies,” Lungu said.
"One word that describes their performance today [Tuesday] is resilience. Despite the red card and a nasty injury to our goalkeeper, the girls remained resilient against a strong opponent. You are the quintessence of hard work, which is the true Zambian spirit.
“You kept your chin up against the best in the world. You are world-class yourselves. Well done girls. You have represented your country and continent well and we are proud of you.”