The Women’s World Cup 2023 will get underway when Zambia Women and Japan Women square off in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Copper Queens are competing in their first men’s or women’s World Cup, and Japan is one of just seven nations that have competed in every World Cup.
Zambia’s success at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, which served as a World Cup qualifying event, earned them a spot in Australia and New Zealand.
Zambia faced Senegal in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations, and after winning their group, the match was decided by a penalty shootout.
The Copper Queens maintained their composure to win on penalty kicks, earning World Cup qualification and a spot in the semifinals, where they were only edged out by eventual champion South Africa.
Zambia will feel that they have what it takes to stand out in a group that includes Spain, Japan, and Costa Rica despite being rated 77th in the world.
After winning 3-2 against the runners-up of the Euro 2022 tournament, Germany, in their final warm-up match, they will undoubtedly enter the competition in a confident frame of mind.
Japan, meanwhile, has become a constant fixture at the World Cup after earning a spot in each of the previous nine competitions.
Japan, who won the global championship in 2011, came very close to defending their title in 2015, but the USA defeated them in the final.
When they were defeated by eventual runners-up the Netherlands in the last 16 of the tournament in France four years ago, they were unable to mount a strong showing.
A convincing 5-0 victory over Panama earlier this month helped Futoshi Ikeda’s team warm up for the 2023 edition, giving them confidence going into Saturday’s opening match.
Japan has impressively avoided losing in their last six World Cup opening matches (W3, D3) after starting the 1995 competition with a loss to Germany.