Zambia lead the way, Cameroon await play-off lifeline
Zambia upset odds to qualify for Women's Olympic Tournament for first time
Cameroon to face Chile in play-off for Tokyo 2020
Regional heavyweights Nigeria and South Africa missed out
Despite not being considered serious contenders for Africa’s sole direct qualifying place at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020, Zambia sprung a major surprise by earning the right to represent CAF at the biggest event of the year in women's football.
Several of the region’s traditional powers, including 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ participants Nigeria and South Africa, fell by the wayside in an exciting and unpredictable Olympic qualifying event that left the Copper Queens as the big winners, and Cameroon with a final throw of the dice in their intercontinental play-off against Chile in April.
FIFA.com sums up the key moments of the qualifiers.
✈️🎟️ A ticket to Tokyo for...
Zambia, to everyone’s surprise
The Copper Queens will compete at their first Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Tokyo. Occupying 106th place in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, they progressed from the first qualifying round to the fifth at the expense Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya.
In the final phase, Zambia faced big hitters Cameroon in a two-legged showdown that was not for the faint-hearted. The Indomitable Lionesses edged the home leg (3-2) only for Zambia to do the same (2-1) back in Lusaka, securing their ticket to Tokyo by virtue of the away-goals rule.
The achievement ranks among the finest in the history of Zambian women’s football alongside their runners-up spot at the 2019 COSAFA Cup.
Cameroon 🆚 Chile intercontinental play-off berth for...
As one of the heavyweights of African women’s football – they are currently 49th in the FIFA Rankings – the Indomitable Lionesses began their qualifying campaign in the second round. Wins over Ethiopia, Congo DR and Côte d'Ivoire set up a fifth-round meeting with Zambia, who got the better of them over two legs.
Despite reaching the last 16 of France 2019, Cameroon will have to defeat Chile in their intercontinental play-off (9 and 15 April) if they are to make another Olympic appearance.
🌟 Standout star
Not for the first time, the name of Grace Chandra is being talked about in glowing terms. Six years ago, the striker and several of her current team-mates made history as part of the first Zambia women’s team to participate in a FIFA tournament: the FIFA U-17 Women's World Costa Rica 2014.
The 22-year-old will arrive in Tokyo as top-scorer in the African qualifiers with eight goals, including the brace she netted away to Cameroon that ultimately proved decisive.
🔢 The stat
15 – The number of goals Zambia scored en route to Tokyo 2020, the most of any team in the qualifiers.
🤔 Did you know...?
Zambia will become the fifth African country to represent the continent at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament. The previous quartet are Nigeria, who hold the record for most participations (three); Cameroon, who made their sole appearance to date in 2012; South Africa, who were present in 2012 and 2016; and Zimbabwe, who debuted in 2016.