The Copper Queens are making their first appearance at a men’s or women’s World Cup, while Japan are one of seven countries to have featured in every edition of the tournament.
Zambia secured their place in Australia and New Zealand after reaching the semi-finals of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations, which doubled as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup.
After finishing top of their Africa Cup of Nations group, Zambia’s quarter-final tie against Senegal was decided with a penalty shootout.
The Copper Queens held their nerve to prevail on spot kicks, securing World Cup qualification and a place in the semi-finals, where they were narrowly beaten by eventual winners South Africa.
Despite being ranked 77th in the world, Zambia will believe that they have the quality to make an impression in a group that contains Spain, Japan and Costa Rica.
They will certainly head into the tournament in a confident mood after claiming a 3-2 victory over Euro 2022 runners-up Germany in their final warm-up game.
Japan, meanwhile, have established themselves as a regular feature at the World Cup, having qualified for all nine editions of the tournament.
After becoming world champions in 2011, Japan went close to repeating the feat in 2015, but they were brushed aside in the final by the USA.
They were unable to produce a deep run into the tournament in France four years ago when they were eliminated in the last 16 by eventual runners-up the Netherlands.
Futoshi Ikeda’s side warm-up for the 2023 edition with a commanding 5-0 win over Panama earlier this month, ensuring that they head into Saturday’s opening game in a positive mood.
Impressively, Japan have avoided defeat in their last six World Cup openers (W3, D3) since beginning the 1995 tournament with a loss to Germany.
Zambia Women form (all competitions):
Japan Women form (all competitions):
We say: Zambia Women 2-2 Japan Women
Although Zambia will go into Saturday’s encounter as underdogs, we think that they possess enough quality in the final third to trouble Japan, and as a result, we believe that the two nations will begin the tournament with an entertaining draw.