Ready for the French test: Donaldson's Reggae Girlz hunt first ever World Cup point at Les Bleues expense

By July 22, 2023
Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson (left) and player Atlanta Primus during a pre-game press conference at Sydney Football Stadiumon Saturday. Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson (left) and player Atlanta Primus during a pre-game press conference at Sydney Football Stadiumon Saturday.

After months of preparation and anticipation, Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz wait to wet their feet at a second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup, is now over.

They kick off their Group F campaign hopeful of getting their first ever point on the board at the global showpiece, but doing so against an experienced France squad that is well versed in the challenges that the World Cup presents, will by no means be easy.

France obviously enters Sunday’s contest scheduled for 5:00 am Jamaica time, at Sydney Football Stadium as strong favourites with Les Bleues currently fifth in the Fifa rankings, while Lorne Donaldson’s Reggae Girlz sit at number 43.

However, Donaldson would readily tell you that rankings mean very little and while they proudly wear the underdog tag, they are not to be taken lightly.

“We have been training for this match for the last few weeks, obviously France is one of the top five teams in the world, they have been to a few World Cups, and I think they are one of the favourites right now. But our preparation has been good throughout, so hopefully we can come out, put up a good fight and show the world what we can do,” Donaldson said in a pre-game press conference.

 “I don’t want to give much away in terms of our tactics, we are going to just come out and adjust to what they are doing and just put up a fight and just figure things out as we go along,” he added.

Though Hervé Renard's French side have picked up six wins from their last eight outings, including wins over Norway, Denmark and Ireland earlier this month, the Reggae Girlz have highlighted their ability to turn up when it matters most.

It is that unpredictability along with the presence of prolific striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw that Donaldson believes will spark some semblance of fear in the opponents.

“I think anytime you get into this (big game) situation there is always pressure. We can say we don’t have nothing to lose, but we still want to play well and make our country proud, and the players feel the same way that they want to get something out of the game. So, I don’t know if France has more pressure than us but there is pressure both ways,” Donaldson opined.

“The French team has a new coach they haven’t played a lot of game under the new coach so we can’t look back at the old France team, some of the players are the same and there are new players and they have played more games than us recently. So, we have to study those games to see how we approach the game. It’s a new enthused and energetic French team, different mentality and different style of play,” he noted.

Though he is yet to confirm his starting team, it is likely that Donaldson and his assistants could lean towards a 4-3-3 formation, which would see Tottenham Hotspurs’ Rebecca Spencer in goal, shadowed by Swaby sisters Chantelle and Allyson in the heart of defence, flanked by Tiernny Wiltshire on the right and Deneisha Blackwood on the left.

Havana Solaun, Drew Spence and Atlanta Primus, could marshal the midfield, while Shaw could possibly be joined by Jody Brown and Cheyna Matthews in the three-pronged attack.

Meanwhile, the England-born Primus, who will be among a number of players making their World Cup debut, pointed out that the team is raring to go.

“We are very much here to play and our primary focus is the game tomorrow against France. I am super excited, we have been working hard to prepare as much as we can for this, so our attention and focus is very much on that,” she said.

“Obviously Bunny is the top striker from last year and she is coming off an incredible season in the WSL, so I think she will enter the tournament with great confidence and for us as a team it is great to have her on our side because it’s a matter of scoring goals to win games so hopefully, she can sparkle,” Primus added.

After France, the Girlz will engage Panama on July 29 and Brazil on August 2.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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