Zambia coach Bruce Mwape has discussed the absence of captain Barbara Banda as they kick off their 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations against Cameroon on Sunday.
The Shepolopolo side received a massive blow on Saturday after the 22-year-old striker was ruled out of the tournament on medical grounds. Apart from Cameroon, Zambia are pooled in Group B alongside Togo, Tunisia, and will face the Indomitable Lionesses at Stade Mohammed V.
Mwape has downplayed the absence of the player, who stole the show during the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan when she scored a hat-trick against the Netherlands, though the Copper Queens lost the group fixture 10-3.
“Barbara Banda is one of our best and most dependable players but there is nothing that we can do about this,” Mwape told reporters as quoted by Lusaka Times.
“She has been sidelined but don't forget this is a sporting team of 22 players so the players that we have should be able to deliver. Yes, Barbara has done a lot for this team but we still have replacements and we are confident they can do the job.”
Banda, who features for Chinese club Shanghai, scored another hat-trick in Japan as Zambia secured a 4-4 draw against China. Zambia will also miss the services of Ochumba Oseke and Siomala Mapepa, but according to Mwape, they are ready to face Cameroon.
“Our coming here is to participate in the Wafcon with an aim of going as far as the finals. We have come with 22 players and we are ready for the tournament,” added Mwape.
“We are not meeting Cameroon for the first time, we can’t fear them. We have beaten them before and they have beaten us before and when I was appointed in 2018 we faced them in the Cosafa.”
In 2018 at Port Elizabeth, Zambia beat Cameroon 1-0 in the Group stage of the Cosafa and lost to them by the same margin in the semi-finals.