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Zambia book first ever Women’s World Cup finals

Zambia women national team celebrates after beating Senegal 4-2 on penalty kicks.

Goalkeeper Hazel Nali kicked the winning spotkick as Zambia qualified for a first ever Women’s World Cup finals appearance after edging Senegal 4-2 on post-match penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time in their Women’s Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal in Casablanca on Wednesday.

The top four finishers at Wafcon in Morocco qualify for 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this time next year, making each of the quarterfinals at the continental finals a decisive qualifying tie.

Neither side had previously come close to World Cup qualification but Zambia did compete at last year’s Olympic women’s tournament in Tokyo, which was played at full international level.

Korka Fall missed Senegal’s first kick in the shootout while Zambia were successful with their opening three but then Lushomo Mweemba’s fourth effort was saved, allowing Senegal back into the contest.

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But Nali stopped a weak effort from Awa Diakhate to keep it at 3-2 to Zambia after four kicks of the shootout each.

Nali then stepped up to take the decisive fifth kick and book the Copper Queens a trip to the World Cup, amid scenes of celebration at the Mohamed V Stadium.

Senegal took the lead just past the hour mark as Mbayang Sow’s free kick was expertly met, at the far post, by Nguenar Ndiaye as the height of the west African proved trumps amid some timid defending.

It was a lead that lasted nine minutes before a goalkeeping howler from Tening Sene allowed Zambia a deserved equaliser.

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The tall goalkeeper dropped a high ball in her penalty area and it was smartly snapped up by Avell Chitundu, who swooped low to head home from close range.

Another defensive slip allowed Zambia to find the net in the 76th minute but they were pulled back for offside.

In extra time, there were chances on either end but Zambia finished much stronger with Sene going some way to making amends for her error by saving a strong effort from Lubanji Ochumba.

In the last minute of additional time, Zambia rattled the woodwork but Sene was able to snatch up the loose ball to force the game to a penalty shootout.

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The first half offered few opportunities as both sides were wary of mistakes and with nerves prominent proved unable to hold onto possession for too long.

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