Hubert Busby Junior has been reappointed as Head Coach of the Jamaica Senior National Women’s Team, the Jamaica Football Federation announced in a statement on Friday.

This is Busby's second stint with the team, having held the position from 2020 to 2021.

He was removed from the position when the JFF requested FIFA to investigate unsavory media reports originating in Europe. FIFA subsequently cleared Busby.

“The Jamaica Football Federation is pleased to announce that after careful consideration and due process, our technical committee has recommended the immediate reappointment of Hubert Busby as head coach of the Senior Women's National Team,” the JFF said in Friday’s release.   

“Based on his vast experience and knowledge of the squad, we think he is the perfect individual to take the team through the next stage of its development,” it continued.

Xavier Gilbert, who was acting in the role of Head Coach since October 2023, will revert to his previous role as assistant coach.

Busby's first task will be to take charge of the 23-member squad which will play two international friendlies against Brazil on June 1 and June 4 in Brazil.    

Eighteen members of the group for the two games were members of Jamaica’s history-making 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup squad, while former Liverpool midfielder Jade Bailey makes a return to the team which is missing prolific striker Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw and Kalyssa 'Kiki' Van Zanten due to injuries.

The squad is set to depart for South America on May 26. 

Squad: Chantelle Swaby, Konya Plummer, Jade Bailey, Denesha Blackwood, Kayla McKenna, Allyson Swaby, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Vyan Sampson, Peyton McNamara, Page Bailey-Gayle, Trudy Carter, Kameron Simmonds, Tiffany Cameron, Sydney Schneider, Rebecca Spencer, Niya Cardoza, Liya Brooks, Amelia Van Zaten, Jody Brown, Israela Groves, Davia Richards, Lauren Reid

  

Having had a successful run at the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia, senior Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson says it comes as no surprise that a number of players recently landed contracts in top leagues, and hopes the experience gained so far will serve them well in their upcoming fixtures.

Donaldson, who maintained the majority of his World Cup squad for the two-leg Olympic Qualifying playoff fixtures against Canada on September 22 on home soil and September 26 in Toronto, pointed out that the aim is always to get players into contracts that not only benefit them, but also the women’s programme.

Subsequent to their history-making run to the Round of 16 at the global showpiece, standout defender Allyson Swaby, Trudi Carter, Tiernny Wiltshire, Konya Plummer and Deneisha Blackwood, all inked new deals.

Swaby, 26, signed with Italian club AC Milan until 2026, for what will be her second stint in the women’s Serie A, having previously represented AS Roma. Right-back Wiltshire signed with French Division one team Stade De Reims.

Carter, who also had a stint with AS Roma which was derailed by injury, joined Mexican club Atletico San Luis, while Blackwood and Plummer are also plying their trade in Mexico with Pumas Unam and Tigres Uanl, respectively.

“It’s a part of our objective to ensure that our players are playing in some of the best leagues around the world and it is important that the upcoming players see that Jamaicans can get contracts in top leagues, so we love to see that,” Donaldson told Sportsmax.tv.

“One of our main aims from we joined the programme is to get these Girlz in different parts of the world so they can make a living playing football and also help the programme and we have achieved that to an extent, so the coaching staff is very happy,” he added.

For the upcoming games, Donaldson have left out World Cup debutants Peyton McNamara and Kalyssa Van Zanten due to school obligations, while the experienced Havana Solaun is said to be unavailable.

As a result, Olufolasade Adamolekun, who has been in good knick in recent times and the versatile Sashana “Pete” Campbell, who was a World Cup alternate, comes in.

The 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz, who held France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secured their first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama became the first Caribbean nation –male or female – to play in the knockouts of the World Cup, since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

Now they are on the hunt to rewrite the history books, as a victory and a draw against Canada would see the Jamaicans being the first Caribbean nation to qualify for women's football at the Olympic Games. It would also secure them the second automatic spot for the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, alongside United States.

The loser will drop into a women’s Gold Cup qualifying Group A, which includes Panama and Guatemala. They would play home and away games against these two teams starting October 25, with an away game in Panama.

“I’m sure the players are going to come in confident that they have a chance to get a result, so it is for us now to just come in and see what everybody looks like fitness wise and then we go from there. We expect the players to come in with some enthusiasm, it’s not the World Cup, so it’s a different approach to ensure we give it our best to get a result,” Donaldson shared.

“Once I get the best out of the Girlz then I would be happy and proud and if qualification comes with it then even better, but I am not too concerned about the historic aspect of it. We just want to keep moving forward towards building a strong and sustainable women’s football programme. It makes no sense we talk about history if the necessary support isn’t behind it,” the tactician noted.

That said, Donaldson expressed optimism that the Girlz will get a good turnout to start what should be two tough assignments against the reigning Olympic Champions who are out to prove a point after their early World Cup exit.

“They (Canada) are the defending champion so we expect them to be competitive as they will want to defend their crown. They didn’t perform so well at the World Cup, so this will be there shot at redemption, and they will have a point to prove. As you can see the game in Canada is already sold out, so everybody is behind them and they have a lot of support,” Donaldson assessed.

“People in Jamaica aren’t necessarily behind football, but they like to talk football. At the World Cup we got the support from the Australian crowd but in Jamaica you can’t even get a percentage of that.

“I’m sure the players are hopeful that the fans show up because when they get to Canada it’s going to be a full stadium of over 40,000, so hopefully we can get some people in the stands and get some support that the Girlz deserve,” he ended.

Donaldson and his team will assemble in Jamaica on September 19.

Tickets for all the games came be purchased at www.caribtix.com or www.jff.football.

Squad: Sydney Schneider, Rebecca Spencer, Liya Brooks, Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Konya Plummer, Deneisha Blackwood, Tiernny Wiltshire, Tiffany Cameron, Vyan Sampson, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Solai Washington, Kameron Simmonds, Trudi Carter, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Cheyna Matthews, Olufolasade Adamolekun, Kayla McKenna, Sashana Campbell

 

While their recent rise in the Fifa Women's World rankings is all well and good, senior Reggae Girlz assistant coach Xavier Gilbert says the focus of the Lorne Donaldson-led staff is more on initiating the next phase of building the programme to not only ensure continued growth and development, but more importantly, success.

Gilbert, beamed about the fact that the Girlz showed mettle against two of the world's best teams –number-five ranked France and number nine-ranked Brazil –at the recently-concluded World Cup jointly hosted in Australia and New Zealand, and pointed to the significance of maintaining that historic momentum.

The now 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz, held France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secured their first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama to progress from the group stage, before going down 0-1 to now 22nd-ranked Colombia in the Round of 16.

Merely making the Round of 16 was an overachievement by the Jamaicans, as they became the first Caribbean nation –male or female –to play in the knockout stages of the World Cup, since Cuba’s feat in 1938 and that Gilbert believes attributed to their six-place jump on the world table.

By virtue of that, the Girlz also moved to fourth in Concacaf behind United States, who are now ranked at number three in the world, Canada who slipped to 10th and Mexico, who slipped to 36th. The Jamaicans overtook Costa Rica, who slipped to 43rd.

"It is important that we move up the ladder because a rise or fall in the ranking shows that you're either doing something right or failing to get to a particular standard to meet certain objectives. So, it is really good for us and of course we are happy because this move, is a testament of the work we have done over the years, to not only get to this point where we improve our rankings, but more importantly, improve our general performance," Gilbert told SportsMax.tv.

"So, it is important that this momentum isn’t lost, as we have always alluded to, we still have areas that we can improve in and our recent achievement just goes to show that the more we are together and the more continuity we have, the better we can become. We just have to build, we can be better, and we can go higher but the only way to do that, is to build," he added.

Gilbert's sentiments were a slight jab in the direction of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), as he argued that they failed to capitalise on the Fifa match windows ahead of the World Cup, which would have aided in more sustained preparations that might have yielded more positive results.

"We didn't maximise on games in the other windows ahead of the World Cup and I think that would have helped us move a little further," the tactician said.

"I think once we occupy the Fifa windows we will see some more growth and, by extension movements up the ladder and, of course, we would possibly get a lot more invitations to play more friendly games against some top teams to further build our competitive edge," Gilbert reasoned.

"So, again, the move up the ranking is a step in the right direction, it also augurs well for the Caribbean where the standing of women’s football is concerned and I am hoping we can benefit from it by getting more games, as we have to ensure that we utilise each and every Fifa window to build going forward," he continued.

Another positive spinoff from their World Cup exploit is the fact that a number of players, to include, standout defender Allyson Swaby and Trudi Carter, recently landed contracts in two top leagues.

Swaby, 26, signed with Italian club AC Milan until 2026, for what will be her second stint in the women’s Serie A, having previously represented AS Roma. Carter, 28, who also had a stint with AS Roma which was derailed by injury, Mexican club Atletico San Luis.

“Obviously, that again is a good look, this is what we expect, and it is what we want. We want to have our players plying their trade in some of the top leagues around the world as it not only helps to improve their craft, but also the programme because they will bring that experience and knowledge into the national team which will assist in how we perform against certain opponents,” Gilbert shared.

For the next Fifa match window in September, the Girlz will have an important Olympic qualifying playoff assignment against reigning Olympic champions Canada, where they will hope to secure more positive results and, by extension, rewrite the history books.

Victories in the September 22 and 26 fixtures at the National Stadium and Toronto respectively, would see the Jamaicans being the first Caribbean nation to qualify for women's football at the Olympic Games. It would also secure them the second automatic spot for the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, alongside United States.

Though cautiously optimistic about the outcome, Gilbert knows it will by no means be easy, especially with the Canadians wanting to make amends for their failed World Cup campaign. 

"Our performance at the World Cup was a testament in itself of the growth and hard work that has been done by our staff and players, but we remain grounded and so we are well aware of that challenge and know what is ahead," he noted.

Still, if the World Cup has proven anything, it's that the gap between the proverbial big wigs and perceived smaller nations, are rapidly closing.

"We certainly respect what they bring to the table, but we expect a lot of ourselves, and we are optimistic in terms of our ability and what we can do with the right level of preparation. I think with the caliber of players we have and the depth we have, we can prove tougher and more competitive than in the past and hopefully we can get favourable results," Gilbert ended.

If you ask Head coach Lorne Donaldson about Jamaica’s women’s football legacy, he will tell you that it started from their campaign to the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France, when they initially demonstrated utter resilience to accomplish the historic feat.

Then, the Reggae Girlz programme, through the unwavering commitment of women’s football ambassador Cedella Marley, as well as the Bob Marley and Reggae Girlz Foundations, experienced what could only be described as a rebirth from the ashes, after it was discarded and literally forgotten about by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

Since then, the players and coaching staff –much like Marley –adopted the mentality to always focus on the task at hand, despite the financial shortfalls and other proverbial brick walls faced along the way.

So though much has been said about their recent exploits, Donaldson declared that what the world is once again witnessing is the remarkable grit of the Reggae Girlz outfit, as the players are no longer intimidated by obstacles, particularly those that come in the form of competition.

“When we got to that World Cup in 2019, I was the assistant and Hue Menzies, big praises to him, we worked together that squad, but we weren’t planning on going to the World Cup. Cedella Marley was brave in calling us up and having us help out because the football in Jamaica had diminished and we put it together and miraculously we got to the World Cup,” Donaldson shared.

 “Now we think we can take it further. So, the legacy started from there, but we still have a long way to go to achieve what countries like Brazil and others have achieved, so for now we are just trying to grow,” he added.

Donaldson’s views follow the Girlz momentous run at the ongoing showpiece being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, as they are on the cusp of bringing a dream to fruition and, by extension, rewriting their names in the annals of Jamaica’s sporting history.

To do that, the 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz require only a point off number eight-ranked Brazil in their decisive Group F encounter at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Wednesday.

Kickoff is 5:00am Jamaica time.

The Girlz, who secured an historic point of top-ranked France in a goalless stalemate, followed that up with their first ever World Cup win by virtue of a 1-0 scoreline over Panama, to currently sit second on four points.

Leaders France are also on four points, but with a slightly better goal difference, which matters little, as they are overwhelmingly favoured to snare all three points off Panama.

Pia Sundhage's Brazil side is third on three points and must beat Donaldson’s side, if they are to progress from the group stage for a seventh-consecutive Women's World Cup.

Though on paper the Brazilians are heavily favoured to achieve their objective, the Reggae Girlz have proven that they are not to be underestimated and they possess the willpower to once again shock the world of women’s football.

And Donaldson agrees that the Jamaicans faith are in their own hands.

"Brazil is a powerhouse and I think we relish the challenge, all along we knew we were coming in as underdogs, even throughout the qualifiers we were underdogs. So, it's nothing new to us, we have to just be ready to come out and try to match them as best as we can,” Donaldson said.

“I said it before that we have grown from the qualification phase in Mexico because we really haven't had a lot of games after that and like I said, the players are resilient, they have worked hard and I know they would want to stay (in Australia) a bit longer, so we are going to come out and give it our best,” he noted.

While Brazil suffered defeat to France, Donaldson is under no illusions that they will approach tomorrow’s game with the same tactics, especially with Reggae Girlz talismanic captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw set to return from a red card suspension.

Shaw, along with Cheyna Matthews is expected to rejoin Jody Brown up in attack, while Donaldson and his assistants could stick with Drew Spence, Vyan Sampson and Atlanta Primus, in midfield.

At the back, Rebecca Spencer should again be shadowed by Swaby sisters, Allyson and Chantelle, flanked by Deneisha Blackwood on the left, while Tiernny Wiltshire could reclaim her staring spot at right back.

“I'm sure Brazil will make the adjustments from what happened in that France game, obviously we will try to limit some stuff and just use what we think we are capable of doing,” Donaldson shared.

“There are nerves but we just have to go in and enjoy it, we don’t have anything to lose, we just have to go out enjoy ourselves and play. A player like “Bunny” Shaw is going to pose problem for anybody, we are happy to have her back and obviously we can use her in areas that we didn't against Panama and try to be effective, but everybody has to do their job,” he ended.

Stand-in captain Allyson Swaby scored Jamaica’s first goal of the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup and second ever at the global showpiece, as the Reggae Girlz secured an historic win with a 1-0 scoreline over Concacaf rivals Panama at Perth Rectangular Stadium in Australia on Saturday.

Swaby’s all-important strike, her second ever for the Reggae Girlz, came in the 56th minute of a lively encounter, which the Jamaicans expectedly dominated for the most part.

In fact, the Girlz could have won by a wider margin, as they were fluent in their buildups and produced a few colourful plays in patches, however, a combination of faulty shooting, poor decision-making and some good glove work by Yenith Bailey in goal for Panama, denied them.

Swaby, who along with her younger sister Chantelle was the heart of Jamaica’s defence, was almost emotional about the entire outcome.

The win pushed the Girlz up to four points in Group, same as leaders France, who earlier defeated Brazil 2-1. The Brazilians, who entered the match day on top with three points, have been relegated to third and will lock horns with Jamaica in what will be a decisive contest on August 2.

“This is something that you dream about when you play in a World Cup and I am so happy that I could do it and be the difference maker today,” she said in a post-game interview.

“They (Panama) played really well, that was definitely the hardest match we have played against them and its exciting because it means that Concacaf is growing, and this tournament is just showing that.

“But the win is huge, it keeps our dream of getting out of this group alive and we know we have one more game to fight through and we are just happy to be in a position to compete in this group,” she added.

Given the absence of talismanic captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, Head coach Lorne Donaldson made three changes, as Tiffany Cameron came in at right back, while Kayla McKenna and Trudi Carter joined Jody Brown in the three-pronged attack.

With Panama playing a defensive 5-4-1 formation, the 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz were expected to rely on their pace and athleticism down the channels to possibly breakdown the backline.

After Panama fired the first warning shot in the fifth minute, the Reggae Girlz settled into their game and offered a quick response when Atlanta Primus’ pass over the top found Cameron, whose left-footed shot after a brief melee, went wide of the right upright.

The Girlz again went close when Drew Spence sent McKenna on her way and the former Rangers forward played a weighted pass across the six-yard box for the arriving Carter, whose effort was deflected wide.

The resulting corner floated in by Carter also presented another opportunity, but a left-footed effort by Primus was blocked by a defender.

As they continued to apply consistent pressure, the Girlz created a few more half chances, two of which came in quick succession, as Spence fired a 33rd-minute effort into the sidnetting, and two minutes later Vyan Sampson’s shot from a distance was well saved by Bailey diving full stretch to her left.

Panama was not without hope, as they tried to play their game and were almost gifted a goal through some sloppy defending, fortunately for the Jamaicans Marta Cox’s effort from deep inside the 18-yard box, lacked any real pace to beat Rebecca Spencer.

Much like they started the half, the Jamaicans also ended on a high but still without the breakthrough, as Spence’s well-taken free kick from just over 20 yards out, was tipped unto the crossbar and by Bailey, who ensured it remained goalless at the break.

Though absorbing some pressure at the top of the resumption, the Girlz later asserted their authority and again went close when Carter’s effort deflected wide by a defender.

The resulting corner again taken by Carter was expertly met and headed in by captain Swaby, giving Bailey no chance at a save.

Jamaica should have doubled the lead a minute past the hour mark, when Brown played a delightful through-pass to McKenna, who dismissed the advancing Bailey. But the striker sporting the number 22 jersey had a heavy first touch that pushed her too wide to get a shot off.

After pressing and probing, the Jamaicans thought they would have inevitably got a second from the penalty spot when Spence’s shot from outside the 18-yard box was handled inside the red zone. However, the decision to award the 12-yard kick was overturned by Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul on a VAR review in time added.

Teams: Jamaica –Rebecca Spencer, Vyan Sampson, Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Deneisha Blackwood, Atlanta Primus (Peyton McNamara 87th), Trudi Carter (Cheyna Matthews 65th), Drew Spence, Tiffany Cameron (Tiernny Wiltshire 87th), Jody Brown (Solai Washington 80th), Kayla McKenna (Kameron Simmonds 80th)

Subs not used: Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks, Konya Plummer, Havana Solaun, Kalyssa Van Zanten, Paige Bailey-Gayle,

Booked: Blackwood (31st)

Panama –Yenith Bailey, Wendy Natis, Katherine Castillo, Yomira Pinzon, Deysire Salazar (Aldrith Quintero 46th), Emily Cedeno, Schiandra Gonzalez (Carmen Montenegro 78th), Marta Cox, Riley Tanner, Lineth Cedeno (Karla Riley 64th), Carina Baltrip-Reyes (Hilary Jaen 87th)

Subs not used: Farissa Cordoba, Sasha Fabrega, Nicole De Obaldia, Erik Hernandez, Laurie Batista, Rebeca Espinosa, Rosario Vargas, Natalia Mills,

Booked: E Cedeno (13th), Salazar (18th)

Referee: Kateryna Monzul (UKR)

Assistant referees: Maryna Striletska (UKR); Paulina Baranowska (POL)

Fourth official: Akhona Makalima (RSA)

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.

Jamaica Team Guide

July 19, 2023

Jamaica's Reggae Girlz takes the spotlight in our Fifa Women's World Cup build-up feature today. The Jamaicans will be making a second-consecutive appearance at the global showpiece set to get under way on July 20 and end August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

Overview

They are no longer the only Caribbean team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, but Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz will be the first from the region to make a second-consecutive appearance at the finals. Ranked No 43 in the world, they are a much more formidable group than that of 2019 and the squad features several US- and England-born players with Jamaican heritage that were not a part of the team which made a historic appearance in France.

The squad is similar to the one that competed in the qualifiers, winning all but two games – a 5-0 group stage loss to the United States and a 3-0 semi-final loss to Canada – at the Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico. During that tournament, Jamaica registered a 1-0 win over the host nation and also bettered Haiti 4-0 and Costa Rica 1-0 on their way to a third-place finish.

In total, the Jamaicans scored 30 goals and conceded 10 between the first phase of qualifying and the Concacaf championship and were again led by the talismanic striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, who ended the qualifiers with 12 goals.

Since then, the head coach Lorne Donaldson has brought in a few young prospects in 19-year-old goalkeeper Liya Brooks, 18-year-old Solai Washington, 19-year-old Kameron Simmonds and 22-year-old Peyton McNamara, all of whom impressed in the lead-up to the World Cup.

Jamaica have always banked on their speed and athleticism to open up opposing defences, particularly from the wide areas and it will certainly be more of the same in Australia and New Zealand, especially with the addition of fleet-footed players Washington, Simmonds and Kalyssa van Zanten, who can be lethal from the bench.

Still, Shaw, as always, will be the focal point in the attack and, much like she did at the 2019 showpiece when she assisted Havana Solaun to score a historic first goal against Australia, she could make a difference against their more illustrious Group F opponents if is she is able to get on the ball close enough to goal.

The defence has not always been the team’s strong point and while Donaldson and his assistants have done their best to beef up the backline, it basically remains the same as that of 2019, with the exception of Tottenham goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer and right-back Tiernny Wiltshire. Strong performances can be expected from the former captain Konya Plummer, who recently returned from maternity leave, but is looking raring to go. Much is also expected of her fellow defender Allyson Swaby, who is strong in the air and resolute on the ground.

Without doubt Jamaica remain one of the biggest underdogs at the World Cup, but they are certainly not going to the tournament accepting defeat, especially with the 2019 experience now under their belts.

The coach

Lorne Donaldson was born and raised in Jamaica where he started his playing career at Kingston College and Cavalier FC, before moving to the United States where he entered Metropolitan State University of Denver (he was inducted into MSU Denver’s Hall of Fame in 1995). He went on to play for the Denver Kickers, where he won the 1983 National Amateur Cup, and Jamaica.

He later started his coaching career as an assistant at Metro State Roadrunners in 1983 and has not looked back since, managing Colorado Foxes, Colorado Rapids and Real Colorado Foxes, along the way. 

Donaldson was introduced to the national women’s programme on the recommendation of ambassador for Jamaican women’s football Cedella Marley in 2014, along with previous head coach Hue Menzies and the two guided the Reggae Girlz to their historic qualification in 2019.

Both later left the programme for various reasons that involved the Jamaica Football Federation, but Donaldson expressed a willingness to return provided the conditions were different.

In July last year, he replaced Vinimore “Vin” Blaine at the helm, a few weeks ahead of the crucial Concacaf Championship, after the players released a letter expressing dissatisfaction with Blaine’s leadership.

Star player

The Guardian’s first female Footballer of the Year in 2018, the first player from the Caribbean to win the Concacaf Player of the Year Award in 2022, and Jamaica’s all-time leading scorer with 56 goals, Khadija “Bunny” Shaw’s career is one of bumps, bruises and of course, tremendous success.

The 6ft striker’s physicality and speed of thought had set her up for a dazzling career from a young age – aged 14 she played for Jamaica’s under-15, under-17 and under-20 teams. She made her debut for the senior side on 23 August 2015, scoring once in a 6-0 win over the Dominican Republic. She has lost siblings to violence and accidents but used those tragedies to fuel her passion for football.

During the 2019 World Cup in France, Shaw signed a two-year contract with FC Bordeaux and ended her second league season with 22 goals and seven assists in 20 matches, winning the top goalscorer award. She then joined Manchester City where the now 26-year-old continues to show her class, scoring 31 goals in 30 games last season and being named the club's player of the year.

Rising star

At 18 years old, the US-born midfielder Solai Washington is the youngest member of the squad and is one of the up-and-coming players to look out for at the World Cup. Still in high school going into her senior year, Washington first joined the setup at a camp in Florida this year and hasn’t looked back. She possesses great ability and works hard on and off the ball in a manner that belies her age.

Did you know?

Thirteen of Jamaica’s 23-member squad will be making their first World Cup appearances. That number includes the five England-born players – Rebecca Spencer, Vyan Sampson, Atlanta Primus, Drew Spence and Paige Bailey-Gayle. Also of note is that Cheyna Matthews, like she did in 2019, has returned shortly after giving birth to make the World Cup squad.

Standing of women’s football in Jamaica

Women’s football in Jamaica came to life in 1991 when the Reggae Girlz played their first international match against Haiti, losing 1-0. Since then, they have become one of the top teams in the region, and currently boast their second highest ever Fifa ranking at 43. They achieved their highest ever ranking at 42 last year.

There have been bumps on the road, however, and in 2010 the women’s programme as well as the women’s Olympic programme were disbanded by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). At that point, they were at their lowest ranking of 128 but the country was later removed from Fifa’s world rankings after three years of inactivity.

The programme was restarted in 2014 with the support of Cedella Marley, the daughter of the late Bob Marley. Marley’s robust fundraising efforts eventually helped the Reggae Girlz achieve their historic World Cup qualification.

Realistic goal at the World Cup

While it seems a daunting task for Jamaica to get out of Group F and into the last 16, they are expected to prove more competitive than they did in 2019 and the collective goal is to at least take points off one of France or Brazil. If they can do that, confidence is high that they will get the better of Panama in their final group game. So, the realistic aim for the team known for its stubborn determination and passion is to prove their doubters wrong by getting beyond the group stage.

 

Jamaica's Reggae Girlz takes the spotlight in our Fifa Women's World Cup build-up feature today. The Jamaicans will be making a second-consecutive appearance at the global showpiece set to get under way on July 20 and end August 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

Goalkeepers

Name: Rebecca Spencer

Date of Birth: 22 February 1991

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Profile: Born in England, Spencer had a nomadic start to her career before settling at her current employers, Tottenham Hotspur. Capped by England at Under-19 and Under-20 levels, she also received a call-up to the senior England squad in 2016 but was an unused substitute against Estonia. She qualified for Jamaica through her father and made her debut in June 2021, wasting little time in establishing herself as the Reggae Girlz No 1. She was instrumental in Jamaica’s second-consecutive World Cup qualification, showing off her goalkeeping skills with much gusto, particularly at the Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico. Now set to make her first World Cup appearance, Spencer has no qualms in admitting that she is at a ripe age in her career, which is why she is intent on making the most of this opportunity. "I want to have the best competition of my life,” she says. “I'm 32, so I'm not getting any younger. But you know, nothing really phases me in any situation. I have a lot of experience playing in England, so I hope I can bring that to the World Cup.”

Name: Sydney Schneider

Date of Birth: 31 August 1999

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Sparta Prague

Profile: Born in the United States in a multicultural family, Schneider could have represented her home country or Germany, the birthplace of her biological father. Instead, she opted to represent her maternal grandparents’ homeland, Jamaica. After impressing as a youth player, Schneider became first choice at senior level and pulled off some key saves on the way to their historic World Cup qualification in 2019. At that World tournament in France, Schneider, standing close to 1.82m tall aged 19, was again prominent and pulled off a stunning penalty save in their opening game against Brazil, though they inevitably lost 3-0. Now older and wiser, Schneider is ready to perform at her second World Cup but it is unlikely that she will be first choice with Spencer now in the squad.

Name: Liya Brooks

Date of Birth: 17 May 2005

Position: Goalkeeper

Club: Washington State University

At only 18, Liya Brooks caught the attention of Lorne Donaldson and his assistants during the tour of South Korea in September last year. The US-born player, who earned her Jamaica stripes through her mother, showed incredible ability at the Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments and it was little surprise that she quickly made the step up to the senior squad. Brooks is aware that she is merely the understudy to Spencer and Schneider and, as such, is aiming to learn as much as she can from her first World Cup. “Becky and Syd are amazing players, they inspire and push me to be better, so I just want what is best for the team,” she says. “Yes, I will fight for a spot in the starting team, but if that doesn’t happen then that is OK – I just want to make the most of the experience,” she told Sportsmax.tv.

Defenders

Name: Allyson Swaby

Date of Birth: 3 October 1996

Position: Central defence

Club: Angel City FC

Born in Connecticut to Jamaican parents, she has been a rock in defence since making her debut in 2018. Instrumental in the team’s qualification for the 2019 World Cup in France where she shared the pitch with her sister Chantelle. Swaby shows a preference for direct, vertical football, getting the ball forwards quickly. She is a skilled defender in aerial duels and can often be tasked with man-marking by her team, owing to her athleticism and strength. It is those attributes that have earned her a move to Roma, where she played for three seasons, helping the club to their first major title when they beat Milan in the Coppa Italia final. She then returned to the US to represent Angel City FC, but was loaned out to Paris St-Germain for six months. Expect her experience to be on display in Australia and New Zealand.

Name: Chantelle Swaby

Date of Birth: 6 August 1998

Position: Central defence

Club: FC Fleury 91

Like her sister, Allyson, Chantelle came into the Jamaica setup in 2018 and has been a prominent figure for the Reggae Girlz since then. She initially joined as a midfielder but her versatility has allowed her to shine in other positions, particularly defence. In fact, it was at the 2019 World Cup in France that her true potential came to the fore when she was asked to play a holding midfield role and did so to great acclaim. Since then, she has been utilised as a centre-back, right-back and left-back. Chantelle, who currently plays in France for FC Fleury 91, after stints with Sky Blue FC and Rangers – where she scored four goals in seven appearances – will be a reliable asset for Jamaica in her second World Cup with her older sister by her side.

Name: Konya Plummer

Date of Birth: 2 August 1997

Club: Unattached

Position: Centre-back

Born and raised in St Mary, Jamaica, before she went overseas for university, Plummer represented her nation at all levels – Under-15, Under-17, Under-20 and now the senior team, which she has captained on numerous occasions, including at the 2019 World Cup. She played every minute of that tournament and even produced a few stunning solo runs. Apart from her aggression, Plummer’s speed is also a key asset, which is why the head coach, Lorne Donaldson, was sweating about her fitness on return from maternity leave. A lot of emphasis was placed on Plummer’s readiness, as she only resumed training late last year after giving birth to her son. “I think it is important for young girls and people around the world, but most importantly Jamaica, to see that you can have a family and still come back and play,” she says. Through hard work and stubborn determination, she erased all doubts about her fitness and hit competitive mode at the right time to return in defence.

Name: Vyan Sampson

Date of Birth: 2 July 1996

Position: Central defence/midfield

Club: Hearts

Born in London but with Jamaican heritage, she played as a youth at Charlton and Arsenal and later represented England at Under-17 and Under-19 levels. She continued her senior career at Arsenal, West Ham and London City Lionesses, before joining up with Jamaica following their World Cup qualification in 2019. Since then, Sampson, a calming influence at the back and as a holding midfielder, has made Scotland her home, where she plays for Hearts. Now in a happy place for both club and country, she can’t wait to make her World Cup debut. “This is probably the first time in my career that both club and country have matched up so well and taken care of me rather than just seeing me as a commodity,” she says. “I feel fully supported. We [Jamaica] are a small nation, but we don't fear anyone.”

Name: Tiernny Wiltshire

Date of Birth: 8 May 1998

Position: Right-back

Club: Unattached

Another player who can hold down multiple positions if required to do so. This US-born player initially joined the Reggae Girlz as an attacker in 2019 for the Olympic qualifiers and has played for Maccabi Emek Hefer in Israel, Finland’s Kuopio Palloseura and Houston Dash, as a forward. With Jamaica, however, she has excelled as a right-back and has made it her comfort zone heading into her first World Cup.

Name: Tiffany Cameron

Date of Birth: 16 October 1991

Position: Right-back

Club: Real Betis

One the most experienced players in the squad, the Canadian-born defender has represented clubs in her home country, the United States, Israel, Germany, Sweden and now Hungary. Cameron is a natural leader and despite being an attacker for most of her career, she embraced change and showed her versatility when it mattered most to secure her spot as a full-back in the World Cup squad. Cameron has enjoyed a fine season at FC Gyor, scoring 14 goals and making 10 assists. She dabbles in the music industry and has already released a few singles, including the Reggae Girlz’ official anthem at the 2019 World Cup. “'Our Time is Now' in France was so fun," she told fifa.com. "I had such a good time doing that, and my teammates loved it – a couple of them even got a bit teary-eyed. It all started when I was in school. I would write some rhymes back then and, believe me, they were terrible! I loved Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, but Missy especially – the swagger she has is amazing.”

Name: Deneisha Blackwood

Date of Birth: 7 March 1997

Position: Left-back

Club: GPSO 92 Issy

A homegrown player who left Jamaica for university and has since blossomed on the international stage. Blackwood has been a feature in the senior team since her debut in 2018. She may be short in stature but what she lacks in height, Blackwood more than makes up for with her skills and determination. Quick, slippery and a hard worker with heart, she gives her all for the team. “I just want to support my teammates whether I'm on or off the field,” she says. “That has always been my biggest thing being a part of this Reggae Girlz setup, the way we play with and for each other – that is the most important thing."

Name: Sashana Campbell (Alternate player)

Date of Birth: 2 March 1991

Position: Left-back

Club: Medyk Konin

Nicknamed “Pete”, Campbell picked up an injury at the Concacaf Women's Championship in Mexico but reported fit and healthy for the recent camp and made the cut as an emergency alternative to play anywhere in defence if needed. A homegrown player with quality and experience that the head coach, Lorne Donaldson, really values. "She is a very versatile player, who can give us quality in any position between defence and attack,” he says. 

Midfielders

Name: Peyton McNamara

Date of Birth: 22 February 2002

Position: Holding midfielder

Club: Ohio State

A US-born player, who first represented Jamaica at the Under-20 level and later transitioned to the senior setup, where she commanded the coaching staff’s attention in the buildup to the World Cup. She is among Concacaf’s budding young talents and the next generation of players expected to lead Jamaica’s charge, so the debut experience on the world stage will do her well. 

Name: Havana Solaun

Date of Birth: 23 February 1993

Position: Central midfield

Club: Houston Dash

Born in Hong Kong to an Afro-Cuban father and a Jamaican mother, Solaun was originally eligible to play for the national teams of Hong Kong, the United States, Cuba or Jamaica. Though she represented the US at Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels Solaun stuck with Jamaica after making her debut against Chile in 2019 and secured a spot in the squad for France 2019, where she scored Jamaica's first-ever goal in a Women's World Cup after coming on as a second-half substitute against Australia. A nippy attacker who loves to dribble, Solaun’s career has taken her around the world – she has played for clubs in the US, Norway, France and Cyprus and recently signed a two-year contract with Houston Dash. Fun fact: her first name is a tribute to her paternal grandparents’ birthplace and football was at one point her second choice. She was a talented tennis player and considered that as her preferred career before switching back to football.

Name: Drew Spence

Date of Birth: 23 October 1992

Position: Central midfield

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Profile: Born in London, Spence is one of Jamaica’s most decorated players at club level. She was Chelsea’s longest-serving player, scoring 50 goals in 238 appearances between 2008 and 2022, a glittering period in which she won five WSL titles and four Women’s FA Cups before switching to Tottenham. Spence had a brief stint with England in 2015 but switched allegiance to Jamaica in 2021 and was instrumental in qualification for the World Cup. She is another player who is willing to adapt in whatever position Lorne Donaldson requires of her, but her knowledge, passion, vision and the fact that she is a calming influence makes her perfectly suited to midfield. “I’m very composed on the ball and I can break up play in midfield,” she told TottenhamHotspur.com. “I can score a few goals as well!” 

Name: Atlanta Primus

Date of Birth: 21 April 1997

Position: Attacking midfielder

Club: London City Lionesses

Another player born in England who was integral in the qualification process. Primus, the daughter of former Reading and Portsmouth player Linvoy Primus, represented England at youth level before making her Jamaica debut in a friendly against Costa Rica in December 2021. She is a strong and fast midfielder, who is comfortable in possession and doesn’t mind showing her skills in one-on-one situations. “A big motivation for me is my family,” she says. “They support me and have sacrificed a lot – I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Name: Solai Washington

Date of Birth: 1 July 2005

Position: Central midfield

Club: Concorde Fire/Chamblee High

At 17, the US-born midfielder is the youngest member of the squad and is certainly one of the up-and-coming players to look out for at the World Cup. Still in high school going into her senior year, Washington first joined the setup at a camp in Florida earlier this year and hasn’t looked back since. She possesses great ability and works hard on and off the ball in a manner that belies her age. Heading to a first World Cup for her is a mixed bag of emotions as her older sister, Giselle, who was also a part of the pool for selection, was left out of the final 23. "My sister is disappointed because she loves Jamaica and the Reggae Girlz,” she says. “But she is also extremely excited for me and has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my journey.

Name: Trudi Carter

Date of Birth: 18 November 1994

Position: Attacking midfielder

Club: Unattached

Born and raised in the tough Southern St Andrew neighbourhood of Arnett Gardens in Kingston, Carter knew her talent could change her family's fortunes. “Sometimes my grandmother was sleeping and [gun] shots were flying through the window," she said in an interview when she was first called up to the Jamaica squad. "That was my motivation to take my family out of this community and football was the avenue to do that.” She represented Jamaica at Under-17 and Under-20 levels, before heading to the United States for university where her focus was firmly set on gaining a professional contract. Her nippy footwork and confidence on the ball drew the attention of Roma, where she spent one season before injuries derailed her progress. She fought long and hard to regain some semblance of form for the 2019 World Cup in France, but never really performed to her true potential until 2021. That was when she joined FC Gintra in Lithuania, scoring 17 goals in 16 appearances and she brought that form into the qualifiers where she scored five goals to help secure World Cup qualification. 

Forwards 

Name: Khadija Shaw

Date of Birth: 31 January 1997

Position: Centre-forward

Club: Manchester City

Jamaica’s most outstanding homegrown player, Shaw’s entire career has not only been dedicated to raising the bar where personal goals are concerned, but also about helping others achieve their goals. In 2018, when she was named The Guardian's Footballer of the Year, Shaw vowed to do everything in her power — both on and off the field — to inspire others, and to date she has done so with alacrity. Shaw's story is one of inspiration and her successes are a testament to her strong character. She lost four brothers – three to Jamaica's high rate of crime and violence and another to a vehicular accident – yet she has been a model of resilience and exemplary conduct throughout her glittering career. “I know they’re watching over me,” she told the Guardian. “When I accomplish something I’m always happy, but I’m thinking I wanted them to see this.”. Shaw is making waves at both club and national level. She recently won the Concacaf Women’s Player of the Year award and was named WSL Player of the Month twice last season. Her versatility is a game-changer. She can wreak havoc on the wing or dominate as a forward. She has already cemented her name in the record books as Jamaica's all-time leading goalscorer across both men's and women's football with 55 goals at time of publication. 

Name: Jody Brown

Date of Birth: 16 April 2022

Position: Winger

Club: Florida State University

After Shaw, Brown is the next most prolific homegrown player. She represented Jamaica at every level and made her senior team debut in 2018 at just 16. That same year she emerged as a prominent figure in the senior team and won the best young player award at the Concacaf Women’s championships, scoring four goals on the way to World Cup qualification in 2019. She is, undoubtedly, an influential forward, who, at 21, has a lot more scope for growth and improvement which is what makes her such a dangerous prospect. Brown is shy by nature but when she is on the ball, her true personality shines through. She is fast, confident and difficult to catch, especially in one-on-one situations, from which most of her 12 senior goals in 18 appearances, have come. She backs herself as the Reggae Girlz’ best dancer. “[If there was a dance-off] I would be the winner,” she says. 

Name: Paige Bailey-Gayle

Date of Birth: 12 November 2001

Position: Winger

Club: Crystal Palace

Another London-born player who featured for England at the youth level before joining Jamaica’s senior setup. A skillful forward who joined Crystal Palace in 2022, Bailey-Gayle is set to become the club's first-ever female player to feature at a Women’s World Cup. The initial switch to Jamaica required a lot of thought, she said, but now she is relishing every moment of it. “It is a massive honour for me and my family … I feel it was the right decision,” she says. “Qualifying for the Women’s World Cup is another massive honour. I never thought I’d become a full international, and now I am, it's the greatest feeling in the world.” She has already earned seven caps at the time of writing and is consistently putting in the work to score her first goal for Jamaica. 

Name: Kameron Simmonds

Date of Birth: 12 June 2003

Position: Centre-forward

Club: University of Tennessee

The third person in her family to represent Jamaica, following in the footsteps of her father, Gregory, and grandfather, Patrick. The US-born forward was first invited to the senior team in September 2022 before the friendly against South Korea and has since become a staple in the team. Simmonds scored her first international goal against Czech Republic at the 2023 Cup of Nations tournament in Australia. Interestingly, Simmonds’ international career almost didn’t happen. She was a gymnast until she fractured an elbow at the age of 11. She switched to football the next year and started training with her father, a former striker who played professionally for over a decade and still holds the record for goals scored at Howard University. “The love that we have for the game and each other, it's just so amazing that I get to continue that legacy within the family,” she says. “It’s something we can bond over and talk about. It's just an incredible honour.”

Name: Cheyna Matthews

Date of Birth: 10 November 1993

Position: Centre-forward

Club: Chicago Red Stars

This will be the second World Cup for the US-born striker, who received her first call-up just months after she had given birth to her first son, Josiah, in 2019. Matthews, who is married to NFL tight end, Jordan, has had a similar path to selection for this World Cup – having recently returned to action after giving birth to her third son – and again impressed the coaching staff to secure her place in the squad. A prolific goalscorer, who started her career with Washington Spirit and then Racing Louisville, Matthews often shares the main striker’s role with Shaw and the two even combined during a 2-0 friendly win against Sheffield United recently, with Matthews scoring from her teammate’s cross. Despite strong competition for positions in the first team, Matthews’ quality is such that she is expected to play a significant role in Jamaica’s three group games.

Name: Kalyssa Van Zanten

Date of Birth: 25 August 2001

Position: Winger

Club: University of Notre Dame

Born in the United States to a father of Dutch descent and a Jamaican mother, Van Zanten is another precocious youngster who represents the next generation of Reggae Girlz. She played for the US at youth level but made her Jamaica senior team debut during last year’s World Cup qualifiers, where she figured prominently and impressed with her skill and quality on the ball.

A pacy forward, who plays on the right wing, Van Zanten scored the solitary goal in Jamaica’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica in their third-place game at the Concacaf Women’s Championships in Mexico. “I told her before she went on that she had a goal in her,” said head coach Lorne Donaldson. “If these [young] players have confidence, they will produce.” Much is expected of her.

Name: Kayla McKenna

Date of Birth: 3 September 1996

Position: Centre-forward

Club: Villarreal CF

The granddaughter of former Jamaican politician Pearnel Charles, McKenna, formerly known as McCoy before marriage, made her debut for Jamaica in 2019 and successfully made the France World Cup squad. However, she picked up a knee injury shortly after and was later replaced by Mireya Grey. McKenna has had tremendous success with Rangers since signing in 2021. She has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances at the time of writing and when fully fit, she will be a force to reckon with in Jamaica’s team. McKenna has also showed versatility, as she was asked to play a holding midfield role by previous coach Vin Blaine during the qualifiers, and she did so to good effect. The head coach Lorne Donaldson clearly knows her worth: “She is one of those players who brings value to the attack as a point player so we know she will do well."

Reggae Boyz striker Shamar Nicholson and central defender Allyson Swaby were named by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) as their 2021 Male and Female Player of the year, respectively, on Monday.

Nicholson, who recently completed a move from Belgian Pro League team Charleroi to Russian Premier League outfit Spartak Moscow, scored three goals in 11 appearances for the Reggae Boyz in 2021.

The former Boy’s Town attacker has been in sensational form this season scoring 13 goals in 18 games for Charleroi before making the move to Spartak.

Swaby, who captained the Reggae Girlz for the first time this year, was part of a Roma team that won their first major Women’s trophy in May by defeating AC Milan on penalties in the Copa Italia final after keeping a clean sheet.

On December 21, it was announced that Swaby would be joining National Women’s Soccer League expansion team Angel City FC following the completion of the Supercoppa Italiana this January.

Nicholson will miss the Reggae Boyz January 20, friendly with Peru in Lima but could next be in action for the Boyz on January 27 when they play Mexico in a World Cup Qualifying fixture, while Swaby's Reggae Girlz will next see action in the CONCACAF Women's Championship beginning on February 17.

 

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