Join us on this journey as we dish out the inside scoop on each squad's strengths, weaknesses, players to keep an eye on and what a pass mark might be for each nation.
Next up, is World Cup debutants, Zambia.
FIFA Women's World Cup appearances: 0
Best performance at a FIFA Women's World Cup: N/A
Players to watch
Barbara Banda has been the woman to captain the team to and into its first-ever FIFA Women's World Cup - and in the process, become the first landlocked African team to feature at any FIFA World Cup. Therefore, all eyes will be on the 23-year-old as she focuses the team on and off the pitch.
However, it's also Banda's form in attack that will have opposition team's nervous. At the 2020 Olympics, she scored a hat-trick in back-to-back games - the first female to do so at the Olympics, and the first to score two hat-tricks in the one tournament.
Another strong attacking option the Copper Queens will have at their disposal is Racheal Kundananji. Having played less than 10 matches for her home country after being dropped from the side in 2020, Kundananji has been consistently proving she belongs in the national squad. In the 2022/23 season with her current club, Madrid CFF in Liga F, the 22-year-old has played 29 matches for 23 goals and three assists.
As well, Grace Chanda will provide a spark in the attacking half for Zambia having been the FAZ Women's National League Best Player of the Season and Top Scorer of the Year in 2022, scoring 35 goals from six games. Goalkeeper Hazel Nazi will also be crucial with her valuable European experience, currently playing for Fatih Vatan S.K. in Turkey.
Zambia has been busy in 2023 leading into the World Cup, playing five games for two wins. The year began with a friendly against North Macedonia which ended with a 1-0 scoreline to Zambia, with Chanda netting an extra-time winner in the 94th minute.
At the 2023 Turkish Women's Cup in February, Zambia placed third in Group A with a 1-0 loss to Slovenia and 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan. In the win, Zambia had four different goalscorers and kicked the final three of its goals within nine minutes.
Two additional friendlies in April were played when Zambia travelled to take on South Korea, coming away with losses in both fixtures. The first match ended 5-2 in Suwon (after leading 2-1 at half-time), with the second match in Yongin resulting in a 5-0 defeat.
Zambia will have two more friendlies in June and July against The Republic of Ireland and Germany, respectively, before heading to New Zealand for the World Cup.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: When the Copper Queens are on, they're on and can do anything. With attacking options aplenty through the midfield and in the box, the side has no shortage of quality goalscorers and playmakers. Zambia is a team that likes to strike in quick succession. The speed at which the likes of Banda, Kundananji, and Grace Chanda run, work the ball and position themselves, can come off cleanly and gracefully to translate into a slew of goals for the side, which has been proven, and will be a side to their game that can be translated to the World Cup too.
Weaknesses: Zambia needs to work out its structures defensively, a weakness that will have to be worked upon to avoid any rushes of opposition play. Letting 10 goals go by across two games against South Korea (albeit being 60 ranking spots behind), isn't the way Bruce Mwape would want his team to play, and concede. If the attacking end is likely to score, they'll want the defensive end holding up their end of the field too to ensure results go Zambia's way.
Qualifying for your nation's first-ever World Cup will feel like a win for Zambia, but it will also be just the start. The Copper Queens will be out to prove themselves even more on the world stage and are slowly showing that, with a hope of at least securing two points this time around.