Reggae Girlz favoured for historic World Cup win against Panama, but Donaldson, Swaby caution against complacency

By July 28, 2023
(Inset) Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson and defender Allyson Swaby. (Inset) Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson and defender Allyson Swaby.

On paper it seems Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz already have their first ever Fifa Women’s World Cup win in the bag, but if they have learnt anything from securing their first ever point in a goalless draw against France, it is never to underestimate the opponent.

So, though they are up against a familiar foe in Concacaf rivals Panama, who they defeated in previous meetings, Head coach Lorne Donaldson is mindful that anything can happen, especially if his team doesn’t execute accordingly.

As such, the coach and his assistants have taken steps to guard against complacency and if the 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz perform to expectations, then they will again be celebrating at the end of their second Group F contest, at Perth Rectangular Stadium on Saturday. 

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30am Jamaica time.

Despite coming out victorious against the 52nd-ranked Panamanians on penalty when they qualified for their first World Cup in 2018, and again 3-1 for a sendoff game ahead of the France 2019 showpiece, Donaldson insists that his Girlz are still wearing the underdog tag which means they will be no means take their opponents lightly.

“We consider ourselves as being underdog all the time, so we just have to come out with that mentality and our work ethic has to be good. We can’t rely on what happened in the past, so our approach is to come out and fight all the way and we are ready to fight,” Donaldson declared during a pre-game press conference.

“We expect Panama to come out and make it a dogfight, like us, they are here for a reason, so we expect them to make a tight game of it because all the teams in this World Cup are giving their very best. So, we have to come out and ensure that we execute well to get a result,” he added.

The Girlz are currently on a point, same as fifth-ranked France, after the historic draw, while Brazil holds pole position on three points and Panama, pointless.

A win would put the Girlz in a strong position to progress from the group and that by all indications is there clear and only target, though their job would be far from finish, as they still have Brazil to contend with on August 2.

“We have to treat (this game) the same way we treated ourselves against France. We don’t look at them (Panama) as the underdogs, we look at them as a competitor, so the celebrations from our high against France are over, it is time to move on and try to get our first win and put ourselves in a good position,” Donaldson stated.

Though they will be without inspiration captain and lead striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw to a red card suspension, Donaldson pointed out that they will insert someone who is very much capable of getting the job done.

“It’s tough being without your all-time leading scorer but we are finding ways to get stuff done and we have somebody ready and raring to go to get the job done. So, we are just preparing that person and just going to get after it, we might change a few things but not much,” the coach noted.

That said, he could again start with 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.

Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus and Vyan Sampson, could again be tasked with midfield duties, while Jody Brown and Cheyna Matthews, could be joined by 19-year-old debutant Kameron Simmonds in the three-pronged attack.

Allyson Swaby, who is expected to wear the captain’s armband on this occasion, is anticipating another tough encounter.

“The last time we played each other it was a high-pressure match, so we expect it to be similar this time around and I think we are going to use our momentum to try and lead us out there tomorrow,” she said.

“We did something great against France but that could easily be erased if we don’t show up, come out and put our best foot forward. So, we are excited to still be competitive, our objective was always to get out of this group and that dream is still alive, so it depends on what we do tomorrow,” the elder Swaby added.

Sherdon Cowan

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

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