Wafcon 2022: Zambia call for replay of semi-final after VAR penalty

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Bruce Mwape led Zambia on their Olympic Games debut last year and has guided the Copper Queens to their first Women’s World Cup

Zambia’s football association (Faz) has requested a replay of its Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against South Africa, citing complaints about refereeing decisions.

The Copper Queens were beaten 1-0 on Monday after Linda Motlhalo converted a contentious 94th-minute penalty, which was awarded following a video assistant referee (VAR) check.

Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse consulted her pitchside monitor and decided that Martha Tembo had fouled Jermaine Seoposenwe.

Zambia coach Bruce Mwape queried the purpose of VAR after the match, while the country’s President Hakainde Hichilema said it was a “questionable penalty”.

Faz has lodged an official complaint with Wafcon organisers the Confederation of African Football, highlighting “six key incidences” as grounds for a replay.

“We wish to contest the decision of the referee to award such a penalty as we call for a serious review of the game,” Faz’s letter of appeal said.

“We call for the penalty to be cancelled, that a replay be ordered and that the referee be barred from handling any [further] games.”

Faz general secretary Adrian Kashala added that Zambia had also “noted with great concern the poor officiating that characterised the tournament”.

Mwape was “very disappointed with the way the penalty was given” and that the VAR decision was harsh on his frustrated players.

“In the future, people will start saying it will be pointless to have referees if the cameras can decide,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“They should just be firm, because it’s high time the referees improved in terms of officiating games.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was also critical of the officiating as the Super Falcons had two players sent off – both after the intervention of VAR – in their last-four defeat on penalties by Morocco.

“The officiating was not really OK,” she said.

Nnadozie also claimed Moroccan fans “did everything to distract” her side, with Nigerian players targeted by laser pens during their shootout.

“Since I’ve been playing football, this is the worst match I’ve ever played in my life,” she added.

VAR decisions ‘do not augur well’

South Africa celebrate a goal against Zambia at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations
South Africa will meet Morocco in the Wafcon final on Saturday

There were no South African appeals when Seoposenwe went over just inside the box in the 89th minute of their game in Casablanca.

Replays showed Tembo had blocked an attempted pass before the momentum of Banyana Banyana forward Seoposenwe took her into the Zambia defender.

Three minutes later, after studying replays, Tafesse deemed the challenge was worthy of a penalty and Motlhalo netted her second goal of the tournament to put Desiree Ellis’ side through.

Mwape admitted that Zambia wasted chances to put the game beyond South Africa, especially in the first half, but he was adamant his side were let down by the VAR controversy.

“Even the assistant also didn’t see anything, so making decisions by VAR sometimes doesn’t augur well,” he added.

“It can be like that [VAR to improve the game], but the rate at which we are going I don’t think it is improving the game.

“I can say this [semi-final] is not the first time we’ve had decisions go against us because even in the other games that we won, some decisions were not the way they were supposed to be.”

Zambia have qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup after reaching the semi-finals at Wafcon, and will now face Nigeria in the third-place play-off at Wafcon on Friday.

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