Olympics football: End of the road for Banda-led Zambia after Brazil defeat
Zambia’s journey at the Tokyo Olympic Games came to an end after a 1-0 defeat against Brazil in their final group match at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday.
It was Alves Andressa’s goal from a well-taken free-kick in the 19th minute that ended Zambia’s stay in Tokyo after they had earlier lost goalkeeper Hazel Nali to injury and key defender Lushomo Mweemba to a straight red card.
After losing their opener and drawing the second, the Copper Queens went into the Group F fixture seeking victory to match the South American giants on four points and go through to the quarter-finals on the head-to-head rule while hoping for China not to collect maximum points from leaders Netherlands.
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Knowing what was at stake, coach Bruce Mwape made two changes to the side that drew 4-4 with China with Margaret Belemu and Martha Tembo getting the starting nod ahead of Esther Siamfuko and Mary Wilombe.
Zambia started the game well with Rachael Kundananji threatening Brazil with a shot from the centre in the sixth minute, but it was well gathered by goalkeeper Barbara.
In the 11th minute, the African nation suffered a blow after the game was temporarily stopped as their custodian Nali needed urgent treatment on the pitch after colliding with midfielder Beatriz, and after almost five minutes of treatment by the medics, the two players could not continue.
In the process, Zambia had to change their first-choice keeper with Musole N'gambo coming in for Nali while Brazil pulled out Beatriz for Giovana Queiroz.
And in the 13th minute, things got even worse for Zambia as their key defender Mweemba was shown a straight red card by referee Yamashita following a clumsy tackle on Ludmilla which was confirmed by a VAR check.
The red card and losing their goalkeeper somehow took a toll on the Zambians and in the 19th minute they were punished for poor marking as Brazil took the lead through Andressa, whose well-curled free-kick from outside the 18-yard box; beat the mounted wall of players past the advancing N'gambo.
Brazil continued to raid their opponents and in the 34th minute, Andressa should have made it 2-0 but after dribbling past Zambia’s backline, she unleashed a feeble shot that could not trouble N'gambo despite being in a good position to place it into the net.
Zambia star player, Barbra Banda, who made history by becoming the first female to score multiple hat-tricks in a single Olympic tournament, was kept silent by Brazil's defenders, who marked her tight throughout the first half and she could not manage even a single shot on target in the first half.
Banda had scored three goals in the opening 10-3 defeat against Netherland and repeated the fete against China in the 4-4 draw.
At the start of the second half, Brazil made a double change, Formiga and Marta coming on for Julia and Duda in a bid to expose the Zambians and get more goals.
Despite the changes, Zambia remained tight at the back blocking everything thrown at them and Brazil opted to make more changes in the 65th minute. Poliana and D. Silva came in for Bruna Benites and Geyse da Silva.
Zambia, however, managed to keep Brazil at bay and they will be happy not have to conceded more goals like it was in their first match despite playing most of the action with one person less.
In the other game, Netherlands hammered China 8-2 to finish top of the group and reach the quarter-finals alongside Brazil.
Brazil: Barbara; Tamires, Rafaelle, Erika, Benites; Debinha, Andressinha, Julia, Duda; Marta, and Beatriz.
Zambia: Hazel Nali 16, Lushomo Mweemba 3, Margaret Belemu 8, Martha Tembo 13, Agness Musase 15, Ochumba Oseke 7, Grace Chanda 10, Barbra Banda 11, Avell Chitundu 12, Ireen Lungu 14, Rachael Kundananji 17.
Subs: Anita Mulenga 5, Mary Wilombe 6, Hellen Mubanga 9, Vast Phiri 18, Evarine Susan Katongo 19, Esther Namukwasa 20, N’gambo Musole 22.