I have been trying to understand the rationale behind the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) sending a team to a tournament that has its hosts pulling out and at the expense of organising quality international friendlies against fellow FIFA 2023 World Cup-bound teams.
With all due respect to the Turkish Women’s Cup, which has registered many withdrawals following the devastating earthquake that hit the northern part of the country, we should have done better to organize other friendlies for the girls.
In as much as we want the team to adequately prepare for the challenge ahead, I feel it is morally incorrect to send the players to participate in a tournament hosted by a country in distress.
If it was okay, the hosts would not have withdrawn and besides, these teams the Copper Queens are facing in the so-called Turkish Cup are nowhere near the World Cup. Come on FAZ!!!
We can do better.
To get you up to speed, Zambia will play the likes of Slovenia and Uzbekistan after kicking off against North Macedonia, a team our girls laboured to beat on Wednesday.
Our Group C opponents Costa Rica, Japan and Spain have organised some top-quality matches against in their respective friendly tournament programmes for February.
Costa Rica is away in Mexico to face the likes of Nigeria and Colombia and drew 1-1 against the latter on Wednesday, they face Jamaica on February 21 while the hosts are the only team not going to the World Cup.
Unlike us who have just played one fellow World Cup envoy, Colombia, Costa Rica has since October played two other World Cup teams namely the Philippines and Netherlands.
In addition, Costa Rica has also played Portugal, a team currently in the World Cup qualifier playoffs last November in Lisbon.
So that is six teams with a World Cup element Costa Rica would have played in five months.
Spain, on the other hand, is visiting FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts Australia to play in the Australia Nations Cup from February 13-22 where Jamaica are also invited while the Czech Republic is the only invited team that didn’t qualify.
Some teams like Spain have even planned for April and have invited Norway and China who will also be in Australia and New Zealand.
Japan are currently in the United States of America taking part in the prestigious Shebelieves Cup where they will not only face World champions but also fellow tournament big guns like Brazil and Canada.
So looking at the lists of teams our opponents have lined up, one wonders what we are doing in Turkey. Have we sent our team for a holiday or we just want it on paper that we are playing friendlies to prepare for the World Cup?
For now, it looks more of quantity than quality.
Playing Colombia was a huge step which the association would have built on by ensuring that the team plays other quality friendlies with high-profile teams because the World Cup is not child’s play.
Australia and New Zealand will host the best of the best and we need to test ourselves against the other teams heading to the tournament who have a serious attitude motivated by their World Cup qualification.
At this moment, we don’t need a team that will concede 10 goals in the first game and still clap for them claiming a job well done. We are way past that. We are a big team dealing with big girls of the game and we should behave as such.
Time for mediocrity should end because there is enough resources for FAZ to organise top-notch friendly matches for the team.
The coaches will always applaud playing away in these nonentity competitions because they have no choice and claim such tournaments will be eye-openers and help them shape the team.
Truth be told the team can only get better by playing fellow World Cup-bound teams to get a real feel of what to expect.
What will North Macedonia offer that will give the team a feel of a World Cup opponent? Going by yesterday’s performance your guess is as good as mine.
I feel we can do better with the April FIFA window coming our way and ensure we give the girls real competitive training games to gauge them and not flatter ourselves playing minnows.
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