The Copper Queens of Zambia fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of Japan in their first game of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Central African nation came into the global women's football showpiece as the most in-form African women's team at the moment.
However, their real quality was put to the test against the 11th-ranked team in the world, who thrashed them 5-0 in their Group C opener.
Zambia will now hope to recover against Spain on Wednesday 26 July before they face Costa Rica in their final group game on Monday 31 July.
Japan's biggest victories at the Women's World Cup:
◎ 6-0 vs. Argentina (2003)
◉ 5-0 vs. Zambia (2023)
◎ 4-0 vs. Mexico (2011)
— Squawka Live (@Squawka_Live) July 22, 2023
Zambia vs Japan: The match as it happened
Bruce Mwape lined out his team in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Africa's top scorer at the Olympics and Zambia's key woman, Barbara Banda was the line striker in this set-up.
Zambia hoped to pull off an upset in this highly anticipated fixture but the status quo was to be maintained. The 11th-ranked Japan were well organised and they proved to be too much for Mwape's women.
The match turned out to be Japan's announcement to the world that they were serious contenders for the title especially after the USWNT thrashed the Vietnam women's national team earlier in the day.
From the start of the game, it was obvious that Zambia came to defend or in the worst case, handle themselves enough to not get thrashed. Japan had the lion's share of possession and Zambia scrambled to keep the ball out of their net.
Catherine Musonda worked overtime in goal and if not for her efforts, Japan would have been five goals up at halftime, however, they escaped with only one goal conceded.
The second half saw the floodgates open and Japan scored three in less than 20 minutes. Tanaka and Miyazawa scored the second and third goals in six minutes. Star of the match Endo found the back of the net for the fourth of the night to cap a fine performance ten minutes after the third goal.
Musonda got sent off late in the game for a bad challenge and Japan got their fifth from the penalty spot.
Zambia are now dead last in their group thanks to goals conceded. They will need Costa Rica to lose to Japan in the next group game to stand the chance of making it out of the group.
“We have not played well this evening,” Zambia coach Bruce Mwape told reporters after the game “It's not the end of the world, I'm sure we can still come back and fight for a qualification spot.”
Moments from Zambia vs Japan at the FIFA WWC AUS/NZ
Many interesting moments were captured by the photographers on duty at the Group C opener of the Copper Queens and the Japan women's team. See some of them below.
Stay tuned to Goalball Live for excellent coverage of the African teams at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
This article was most recently revised and updated 2 months ago