Women’s World Cup Prediction: Zambia vs. Japan Women – July 22, 2023
WOMEN’S WORLD CUP PREDICTION: ZAMBIA VS. JAPAN WOMEN – July 22, 2023 — Every World Cup, there’s always one team that’s only there because of the qualifying format in its regional confederation. This year it’s Zambia, as the Copper Queens make their World Cup debut despite being ranked 77th in the world.
Africa’s qualifying format for the Women’s World Cup is far less ruthless than the men’s, which has produced some truly bizarre entries. If competing in any other continental confederation, Zambia almost certainly wouldn’t be here…
…Or would they? After a recent European tour, it might be time to reassess a little of what people know about Zambia. Up first in opposition is a Japan side that’s got its eyes on returning to the world’s elite. Here’s the lowdown on Group C’s second match:
Zambia vs. Japan Women – Match Preview
- When: Saturday, July 22nd at 3 a.m. EDT
- Where: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand
- Spread: Zambia +2/Japan -2
You can get the latest Zambia vs. Japan Women odds on DraftKings.
Unlike some of the lesser sides in the tournament, the Copper Queens do have a few players who compete in Europe, and they raised more than a few eyebrows on their three-match road swing through Europe. Against Ireland, Switzerland and Germany – all World Cup qualifiers from UEFA – Zambia led in every match. Not only that, but the Copper Queens earned a draw with Switzerland and shocked heavily-favored Germany with a late winner.
This is a side that’s built for the future. Only one member of the Zambian squad is over the age of 28, and their captain and best player, Barbra Banda, is just 23 years old. Banda does her work in the Chinese league, and she’s proven exceptional in a Zambia shirt.
In just 10 appearances overall for the Copper Queens, Banda has found the net an incredible 22 times. She’s joined up top by Zambia’s ‘veteran’ attacker, 26-year-old Grace Chanda, who made a big impact at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
The defense, however, is on the questionable side, with Zambia often running out of gas near the end. In its recent European tour, the Copper Queens conceded five goals in the final 30 minutes of play. That included two in stoppage time to Germany that nearly robbed them of their victory. And while Japan isn’t renowned for late winners, it’s a worry nonetheless.
The Nadeshiko have mostly aged out from the side that won the title in 2011 and reached the final in 2015. Unlike several dark horses for this tournament, who have kept reloading with talent, Japan’s mostly stood still over the past decade. Granted, they’re still a continental power, but it’s telling that Spain – yet to venture beyond the Round of 16 – is favored to win Group C.
Does success beget success? That’s the bet the Japanese are making here, as coach Futoshi Ikeda has opted to fuse much of the side that won the Under-20 Women’s World Cup five years ago with some of the holdovers. As such, Japan won’t have the edge in experience on Zambia.
They will have the edge in terms of overall talent though, as several of their players compete in Italy, England and the United States. With that in mind, a lot could depend on midfielder Yui Hasegawa. She competes for Manchester City and scored Japan’s final goal at the 2019 World Cup against the Netherlands.
Other than captain Saki Kumagai, Hasegawa brings the most experience to the table. Japan’s only other experienced attacker is striker Mina Tanaka, who found the winner against Portugal in her only start of 2023 in a Nadeshiko shirt.
Zambia vs. Japan Women – Match Bets
Zambia +2 (-110)
Japan’s struggles in attack and Zambia’s recent performance have changed the narrative around this match. The Japanese have won just one of their past seven matches by more than a goal, and Zambia’s been improving drastically as this young side comes together. With Banda on the pitch, getting two goals with this side seems like a little too much disrespect shown to this team.
Both Teams to Score (-145)
Zambia is not a defensive side. Japan is, but the Copper Queens are going to have the best player on the pitch in Banda. As long as they’re able to get the ball over to her, there’s a great chance that Zambia gives itself a chance to score.
Japan will almost certainly find the net. Zambia gave up eight goals on the European tour and couldn’t keep South Korea’s offense off the score sheet in April. That’s why I’m not messing with the total here; Zambia’s defense is far too leaky to expect a low-scoring match.
Japan’s young side is nowhere near as dominant as past results suggest. This is an important tournament for the Nadeshiko, as they’re in danger of emulating neighbors China, turning from a powerhouse into a second-tier side in the modern game.
Zambia is a team on the rise, but it’s not yet at the level of a world-class side. Consequently, the Copper Queens are ranked too low, but the old guard holds firm for at least another four years. Here, I’ll go for Japan 2, Zambia 1 at +700.