After switching allegiance from Canada to Jamaica, Tiffany Cameron will play against her birth country in one of the most important fixtures of her career.

Cameron, who earns her Jamaican stripes through her parents Yvonne Brown and Donovan Cameron, represented Canada at the Under-17 level and then played six friendly contests with the senior team, before making a switch from the Canucks to the Reggae Girlz in 2019.

While it is not her first time playing against Canada since her switch, the significance of this two-leg Olympic qualifying playoff, is such that Cameron’s sentimental attachment to her birth country and former team, is almost non-existent.

In fact, Cameron is buzzing with excitement ahead of the opening fixture scheduled for later this evening inside the National Stadium at 7:00pm, and moreso about her return to the BMO Field in Toronto where the second-leg will be contested before a sold-out crowd on September 26.

“The last senior international cap I had with Canada was on June 2, 2013, against United States at BMO. We lost that game 0-3 and I haven’t played on the BMO Field since. So, it will be extra special for me to go back there now representing Jamaica,” Cameron told Sportsmax.tv.

“Situations like these don’t happen often, so I’m excited. I’m ready to give my best and I think it will be a competitive match,” she added.

The two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup representative, who has enjoyed a decorated career spanning 14 years to date, recently inked a deal with Liga F outfit, Real Betis, where she hopes to again put her versatility on display, much like she did with the Reggae Girlz at the global showpiece in Australia.

Simply put, Cameron, though at age 31, is still very much in her prime and has a real hard desire to work hard and improve her craft, especially now in a country where she enjoys their brand of football.

“I think it (Real Betis) is a great fit for me because I enjoy combinational play and playing with players that express themselves and make football an enjoyable sport to watch. Playing in Spain will improve my decision making overall, as the speed of play in Spain is ranked one of the highest in the world.  I have settled in well so far and I am very much looking forward to my time with the club,” she shared.

But, for now, Cameron is solely focused on assisting her Reggae Girlz team in their bid to once again rewrite the history books by being the first Caribbean team to qualify for women’s football at the Olympic Games.

The Reggae Girlz, are coming off a confident run at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, where they finished second in Group F, holding top 10-ranked teams France and Brazil to goalless stalemates, complemented by a 1-0 victory over Panama, before losing 0-1 to Colombia in the Round of 16.

It was the first time since 1938 that a Caribbean team –male or female –contested the knockout stages at the global showpiece and the Girlz have a chance to build on that momentum.

“We are all proud of what we were able to accomplish at the World Cup and I think those accomplishments have given us a boost in confidence going into these games against Canada. We want to continue to make Jamaica proud and will give our best,” Cameron declared.

“We know what’s at stake in these games, so we will go into these games with a similar mentality as the World Cup. The opportunity to continue to make history is a blessing within itself and we won’t be taking that for granted,” she noted.

A win and a draw against 10th-ranked Canadians would be good enough to not only book the 37th-ranked Jamaicans one of 12 spots at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, but also a spot in the group stages of the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, alongside United States.

Both Jamaica and Canada are in this position after placing second and third at last year’s Concacaf Women’s Championships in Mexico. United States, by virtue of topping the tournament, earned automatic qualification to both the Olympic Games and the Gold Cup.

Like many of her teammates, Cameron knows all too well that another history-making feat would add further impetus to not only their status, but to women’s football in the Caribbean on a whole.

“It would mean a lot to us to be able to make history and be the first Caribbean team to qualify for women's football at the Olympics. The more successful we are, the more hope we will give to the younger generation in the Caribbean,” Cameron ended.

Powerade on Wednesday announced the addition of Jamaica and Manchester City forward, Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw, as its brand ambassador for the next two years.

The 26-year-old Shaw, the first Jamaican to ever be nominated for the Ballon d'Or, is pleased to be on board. 

"For me, personally, as I continue to grow and evolve as a human being, I want to always bring awareness as well as motivate and inspire young girls and young boys to believe in themselves and their dreams and know that with hard work anything is possible," Shaw said.

"I think with me partnering with Powerade, I truly believe that we can help to inspire and motivate young boys and girls," she added.

Andrew Mahfood, CEO of Powerade distributor Wisynco Group, said the company has known Shaw since high school.

"At Wisynco, we have been following Bunny for years, since our Coca-Cola trophy tour, and it is unbelievable to see Bunny's dream unfold before our eyes," Mahfood said.

Powerade's brand manager, Chantelle McDonald, explained the rationale for Powerade.

"As a born and raised Jamaican, Bunny is not just a footballer; she is a symbol of dedication, perseverance, unmatched skill and an inspiration for women and girls in the sport. From humble beginnings to top scorer, she plays an integral part in the rise and significance of women's football in Jamaica. We are proud to have her represent Powerade."

Powerade will support any outreach activities Shaw plans to carry out in Jamaica as part of the partnership. Shaw will also appear in Powerade's advertising campaigns and make appearances on behalf of the brand.

 

As the calls for support for Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz continue to grow, noted sports consultant Carole Beckford, has added her voice to the effort and even went as far as to suggest ways in which seats can be filled for the upcoming local leg of the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying playoff against Canada.

Beckford, like Head coach Lorne Donaldson and Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President, Christopher Samuda, believes the Reggae Girlz are deserving of every bit of backing, and, as such, are urging Jamaicans to show out at the National Stadium on September 22.

This, as the second leg scheduled for September 26 at the close to 40,000-capacity BMO Field in Toronto, has already been sold out.

In fact, Beckford went further to recommend that schools such as Excelsior, Holy Childhood, Meadowbrook, Alpha, Holy Trinity, Camperdown and Dunoon, dismiss classes at 1:00 pm, to allow the girls time to get home and back to the game.

She said businesses that employ individuals with girls at those schools, could also release them early to possibly accompany their children and Corporate Offices with women as CEOs could buy tickets for their employees. 

Additionally, she suggested that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JFC) could make adjustments for vehicular movements until match time, to allow one-way traffic up from Arthur Wint Drive.

According to Beckford, the show of support would be somewhat of a celebration for the 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz for their exploits at the Fifa Women’s World Cup where they held France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secured their first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama.

In the process, they became the first Caribbean nation –male or female – to play in the knockouts of the World Cup, since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

“This match could be a homecoming for the ladies, who were in the final 16 at the recently concluded World Cup in Australia/New Zealand. The Girlz deserve our support, let us all wear Jamaican colours next Friday. We will be up against the Reds,” Beckford urged.

Should the Girlz secure a victory and a draw against Canada, it would see them being the first Caribbean nation to qualify for women's football at the Olympic Games. It would also secure the Jamaicans 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.

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

 

There is something about the power of crowds, particularly when it comes to sporting events. Not only does spectator support at sports events impacts performance and enjoyment, but it also creates an atmosphere where a mutual sense of pride is felt by both players and supporters.

Crowd support provides a boost of confidence which can help players to make better decisions and even motivate them to play their best game.

If you don’t believe it, ask Reggae Boyz Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and captain Andre Blake about the significance of spectator support at their two Concacaf Nations League games at the National Stadium.

Though the venue was nowhere close to being filled at capacity, the sizeable crowd that turned out was vocal enough to provide a much-needed impetus which saw the Boyz to a 1-0 win over Honduras on Friday, followed by a come-from-behind 2-2 stalemate with Haiti on Tuesday.

“Yeah, I mean, I did an interview earlier where I think we were talking about how important the fans are, you know, them being loud and supporting us, you know, give us that extra energy that extra motivation that we're always going to need. It also makes the away team uncomfortable, and they stayed with us the entire time and that kind of showed that, we were playing well, and we were giving them something to cheer for definitely because we have to do our job,” Blake told journalists in a post-game interview.

“So, we did our job, you know, they stayed with us. Unfortunately, we weren't able to give them three points tonight (Tuesday). But the point is always better none and again to really fight back from two-zero down, you have to give the guys some credit, and thanks to the fans for coming out and being loud tonight,” the Philadelphia Union shot stopper added.

Iceland-born tactician Hallgrimsson echoed similar sentiments.

“If I might add to that end, to have the support of the people, I know you're opinionated and even though we were two-zero down, we really felt the support from the people and we appreciate that. It was lovely for a foreigner to be here and feel the support from the people,” he said.

While the Boyz home fixtures are now done and dusted, the assertion of both Blake and Hallgrimsson has swung the door open on debates about whether or not the history-making Reggae Girlz will get a similar or even greater support when they engage Canada in their Olympic qualifying playoff fixture at the National Stadium on September 22.

In fact, the second-leg of the qualifying playoff scheduled for September 26 in Toronto, Canada, has already been sold out, prompting a rally cry from Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president Christopher Samuda for Jamaicans to make their presence felt.

Samuda pointed out that the now 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz, deserve every bit of support, as they seek to add to their exploits at the Fifa Women’s World Cup where they held France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secured their first ever World Cup win with a 1-0 scoreline over Panama.

Though they lost their Round of 16 contest to Colombia, merely progressing to that stage was an overachievement by the Jamaicans, as they 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.

With that in mind, Samuda urged spectators to turn out in their droves at the National Stadium and provide that feeling of over-stimulation and ripples of noise and colour to fuel the Girlz quest.

“History is at the feet of our Reggae Girlz in these Olympic Games qualifiers and we must give them every support and empower them to write another pioneering chapter in the sport,” Samuda told Sportsmax.tv.

“On the 22nd Jamaican massive must turn out to the National Stadium in our black, green and gold and make a statement that will electrify the Girlz to conquer and give them that confidence and inspiration to seal the deal in Toronto on the second leg.

“Already the second leg in Toronto is sold out, so the Kingston game must sell off in sending off the Girlz in royal style. Jamaica, let us grasp this moment in our nation’s life and live it to the fullest. Our Girlz are deserving and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, awaits their arrival,” he added.

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.

The Reggae Girlz are now the 37th best International team in the world according to the latest FIFA World Rankings.

This ranking is the highest the Girlz have ever been and moves them from fifth to fourth in the CONCACAF region. The regional teams ahead of the Girls are Mexico (36th), Canada (10th) and the USA (3rd).

This jump comes after a historic performance from the Girlz at the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Girlz, drawn in Group F alongside powerhouses France and Brazil as well as their CONCACAF counterparts Panama, entered the tournament with many not seeing a way forward for them.

Nevertheless, they became the first ever Caribbean team to progress to the Round of 16 at a World Cup thanks to draws against France and Brazil and a 1-0 win over Panama, their first ever at a World Cup.

They went on to suffer a narrow 0-1 defeat to Colombia in the Round of 16.

The year 2023 has been a historic one for football in Jamaica.

In fact, President of the Jamaica Football Federation, Michael Ricketts, described it as the greatest year in Jamaica’s football history at a press conference held at the JFF headquarters on Thursday.

“We are delighted to be here this morning basking in the glory of a number of the achievements of a number of our national units,” Ricketts said.

“I would say without apology that, so far, this must go down in history as the most successful year ever in the history of football in this country,” he added.

The biggest of those achievements is, undoubtedly, the recent exploits of the Reggae Girlz who became the first Caribbean team to ever advance to the Round of 16 at a FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Four years after their maiden World Cup appearance, the Girlz progressed from Group F including powerhouses France and Brazil, securing draws with both along with a 1-0 win over Panama to finish with five points and progress to the Round of 16 where they suffered a 0-1 loss to Colombia on Tuesday.

“The girls really, really made us proud. I want to reiterate the fact that these girls have impacted the whole world,” Ricketts said.

“Sometimes we don’t understand the magnitude of the achievement until we meet people overseas and they are so amazed that Jamaica, with less than three million people and hardly any world class facilities, can not just qualify for the World Cup, but also be competitive. I know their performance would’ve provided a catalyst for young girls and boys in Jamaica to want to play the sport,” Ricketts added.

On the men’s side, the Reggae Boyz got to the semi-finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time since 2019 and, in the process, got their biggest win ever in the tournament with a 5-0 group stage win over St. Kitts & Nevis.

The Gold Cup also saw the Reggae Boyz defeat Guatemala for the first time in 11 years and Trinidad & Tobago for the first time in seven years. Individually, Demarai Gray was named to the team of the tournament.

Some other achievements for Jamaican teams included the Under-20 Reggae Girlz defeating a Central American team at the Concacaf U-20 Championships since 2020 with a 4-1 win over Panama.

The Under-15 Reggae Boyz are currently in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf U-15 Championship for the first time. They will take on Honduras on Thursday.

Jamaica also produced the youngest scorer in the history of the CAC Games when 18-year-old Shaniel Buckley scored in a 1-1 draw with Puerto Rico.

Jamaica’s historic run at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, came to an end, as they conceded their first goal of the tournament which proved their undoing in a 0-1 loss to Colombia on Tuesday.

The Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, in Australia, where the Reggae Girlz etched their names in the annals of global sporting history, when they denied the mighty Brazil in a goalless draw last week, has ironically become the place of their own farewell, courtesy of captain Catalina Usme’s decisive strike in the 51st minute.

Though it was their most underwhelming performance of the tournament, in which they also held France to a goalless stalemate and defeated Panama 1-0, the Reggae Girlz had much to take heart from, as their run on this second-consecutive appearance, described by many as a fairytale, was nothing short of remarkable.

By virtue of merely making the Round of 16, the 43rd-ranked Jamaicans became the first Caribbean nation –male or female – to play in the knockout stages of the World Cup, since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

Still, for Head coach Lorne Donaldson, that meant very little to ease the disappointment. Instead, his focus was more on how they can capitalise on the successes of this tournament to not only sustain, but more importantly, build the programme going forward.

“It was a decent game, but Colombia played better so they deserve the win. We played hard and it has been a good run for us…nobody likes to lose but Colombia threw the knockout punch. We knew if we gave up a goal, we had to score goals and we didn’t do that.

“So like I said, it was an amazing run, an amazing feat and I am happy for the Girlz that they got here but give Colombia credit,” Donaldson said in a post-game interview.

“I don’t care about history; I just want us to build on what we just did. We can be better, so let us just build on this,” he added.

Captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw echoed similar sentiments.

“We didn’t perform as well as we should have so we will just have to come together as a group, not just individually, but as a group and look at what we did wrong so we can perfect it going forward. This run means a lot though and it shows that if you believe and you work hard, then anything is possible,” said Shaw.

“We came out, we held our own and we played hard, but its football, you win some and you lose some. We just have to lift our heads high be proud of ourselves, as you can see the gap is closing between the small islands and the bigger countries so this just goes to show that women’s football is growing and we have to keep moving forward and keep pushing it and hopefully we can get it as far as possible,” she stated.

After playing out a goalless first half where chances were at a premium, in front of a massive crowd of over 27,000 dominated by Colombians, it was only fitting that the South Americans gave them something to cheer about, and that they did.

With only six minutes on the clock after the resumption, a delightful long ball from Ana Guzman to switch the point of attack, deceived Jamaica’s left-back Deneisha Blackwood, who stepped too early and was beaten by the flight leaving Usme unmarked at the far post.

While Blackwood gradually recovered to apply some semblance of pressure, the 33-year-old Usme, was cool, calm, collected and steered a left-footer past Rebecca Spencer, who was beaten for the first time this tournament.

That goal was the wakeup call the Jamaicans needed to inject some tempo into their attacking thrust and they could have immediately pulled level from a set play.

This, as Blackwood’s weighted free kick found Jody Brown at the far post, but the diminutive forward slammed her header at the base of the upright.

The introduction of Tiffany Cameron added some impetus to Jamaica’s attack, which was well off colour, as they struggled to complete passes and create anything too meaningful to worry the Colombians.

In fact, their next best effort came in the 82nd minute when Cameron’s weighted cross from the right, fell nicely for Spence, whose header just went wide of the right upright.

Donaldson signalled his intentions to go for broke with the introduction of 19-year-old World Cup debutant Kameron Simmonds and the experience Cheyna Matthews in attack, but the move proved fruitless.

Instead, it was Colombia that almost had another when a dangerous cross from Usme, dipped well enough for Leicy Santos, who applied a timely diving header that had Spencer beaten, but couldn’t beat the left upright, five minutes from time.

The Jamaicans will next turn their focus to the upcoming Olympic qualifying playoff fixtures against Canada in September.

Teams: Jamaica –Rebecca Spencer, Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Deneisha Blackwood, Tiernny Wiltshire (Cheyna Matthews 83rd), Drew Spence, Vyan Sampson (Peyton McNamara 79th), Jody Brown (Kameron Simmonds 83rd), Trudi Carter (Tiffany Cameron 67th), Kalyssa Van Zanten (Atlanta Primus 46th), Khadija Shaw

Subs not used: Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks, Havana Solaun, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Solai Washington, Konya Plummer, Kayla McKenna

Booked: C Swaby (41st), Spence (45+1)

Colombia –Catalina Perez, Daniela Arias, Diana Ospina, Lorena Bedoya, Mayra Ramirez, Leicy Santos (Daniela Montoya 87th), Catalina Usme (Marcela Restrepo 90+2), Ana Guzman, Carolina Arias, Linda Caicedo, Jorelyn Carabali

Subs not used: Sandra Sepulveda, Natalia Giraldo, Camila Reyes, , Angela Baron, Lady Andrade, Monica Ramos, Ivonne Chacon, Daniela Caracas, Elexa Bahr

Booked: D Arias (70th)

Referee: Kate Jacewicz (AUS)

Assistant referees: Kyoungmin Kim (KOR); Joanna Charaktis (AUS)

Fourth official: Marta Huerta (ESP)

Jamaica’s historic run at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, came to an end, as they conceded their first goal of the tournament which proved their undoing in a 0-1 loss to Colombia on Tuesday.

The Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, in Australia, where the Reggae Girlz etched their names in the annals of global sporting history, when they denied the mighty Brazil in a goalless draw last week, has ironically become the place of their own farewell, courtesy of captain Catalina Usme’s decisive strike in the 51st minute.

Though it was their most underwhelming performance of the tournament, in which they also held France to a goalless stalemate and defeated Panama 1-0, the Reggae Girlz had much to take heart from, as their run on this second-consecutive appearance, described by many as a fairytale, was nothing short of remarkable.

By virtue of merely making the Round of 16, the 43rd-ranked Jamaicans became the first Caribbean nation –male or female – to play in the knockout stages of the World Cup, since Cuba’s feat in 1938.

Still, for Head coach Lorne Donaldson, that meant very little to ease the disappointment. Instead, his focus was more on how they can capitalise on the successes of this tournament to not only sustain, but more importantly, build the programme going forward.

“It was a decent game, but Colombia played better so they deserve the win. We played hard and it has been a good run for us…nobody likes to lose but Colombia threw the knockout punch. We knew if we gave up a goal, we had to score goals and we didn’t do that.

“So like I said, it was an amazing run, an amazing feat and I am happy for the Girlz that they got here but give Colombia credit,” Donaldson said in a post-game interview.

“I don’t care about history; I just want us to build on what we just did. We can be better, so let us just build on this,” he added.

Captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw echoed similar sentiments.

“We didn’t perform as well as we should have so we will just have to come together as a group, not just individually, but as a group and look at what we did wrong so we can perfect it going forward. This run means a lot though and it shows that if you believe and you work hard, then anything is possible,” said Shaw.

“We came out, we held our own and we played hard, but its football, you win some and you lose some. We just have to lift our heads high be proud of ourselves, as you can see the gap is closing between the small islands and the bigger countries so this just goes to show that women’s football is growing and we have to keep moving forward and keep pushing it and hopefully we can get it as far as possible,” she stated.

After playing out a goalless first half where chances were at a minimum, in front of a massive crowd of over 27,000 dominated by Colombians, it was only fitting that the South Americans gave them something to cheer about, and that they did.

With only six minutes on the clock after the resumption, a delightful long ball from Ana Guzman to switch the point of attack, deceived Jamaica’s left-back Deneisha Blackwood, who stepped too early and was beaten by the flight leaving Usme on marked at the far post.

While Blackwood gradually recovered to apply some semblance of pressure, the 33-year-old Usme, was cool, calm, collected and steered a left-footer past Rebecca Spencer, who was beaten for the first time this tournament.

That goal was the wakeup call the Jamaicans needed to inject some tempo into their attacking thrust and they could have immediately pulled level from a set play.

This, as Blackwood’s weighted free kick found Jody Brown at the far post, but the diminutive forward slammed her header at the base of the upright.

The introduction of Tiffany Cameron added some impetus to Jamaica’s attack, which was well off colour, as they struggled to complete passes and create anything too meaningful to worry the Colombians.

In fact, their next best effort came in the 82nd minute when Cameron’s weighted cross from the right, fell nicely for Spence, whose header just went wide of the right upright.

Donaldson signalled his intentions to go for broke with the introduction of 19-year-old World Cup debutant Kameron Simmonds and the experience Cheyna Matthews in attack, but the move proved fruitless.

Instead, it was Colombia that almost had another when a dangerous cross from Usme, dipped well enough for Leicy Santos, who applied a timely diving header that had Spencer beaten, but couldn’t beat the left upright five minutes from time.

The Jamaicans will next turn their focus to the upcoming Olympic qualifying playoff fixtures against Canada in September.

Teams: Jamaica –Rebecca Spencer, Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Deneisha Blackwood, Tiernny Wiltshire (Cheyna Matthews 83rd), Drew Spence, Vyan Sampson (Peyton McNamara 79th), Jody Brown (Kameron Simmonds 83rd), Trudi Carter (Tiffany Cameron 67th), Kalyssa Van Zanten (Atlanta Primus 46th), Khadija Shaw

Subs not used: Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks, Havana Solaun, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Solai Washington, Konya Plummer, Kayla McKenna

Booked: C Swaby (41st), Spence (45+1)

Colombia –Catalina Perez, Daniela Arias, Diana Ospina, Lorena Bedoya, Mayra Ramirez, Leicy Santos (Daniela Montoya 87th), Catalina Usme (Marcela Restrepo 90+2), Ana Guzman, Carolina Arias, Linda Caicedo, Jorelyn Carabali

Subs not used: Sandra Sepulveda, Natalia Giraldo, Camila Reyes, , Angela Baron, Lady Andrade, Monica Ramos, Ivonne Chacon, Daniela Caracas, Elexa Bahr

Booked: D Arias (70th)

Referee: Kate Jacewicz (AUS)

Assistant referees: Kyoungmin Kim (KOR); Joanna Charaktis (AUS)

Fourth official: Marta Huerta (ESP)

The Reggae Girlz remarkable and historic run on their second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, may come as a surprise to many, but those close to the happenings believe it was always on the cards given the players and the coaching staff’s unflinching desire to succeed.

With another campaign being marred by talks of age-old issues of little or no practice games and inadequate preparation, as well as limited funding, ahead of the showpiece currently ongoing in Australia and New Zealand, the collective chorus is one of great optimism that the Reggae Girlz will now be taken seriously and will receive the necessary support and respect they deserve.

Former Head coach Hue Menzies, who was at the helm when the Reggae Girlz first qualified for the France 2019 World Cup, is among those singing praises about the current achievements. But he was also quick to point out that much more work needs to be done, as the country’s women’s football programme is still some ways off from its full potential.

The 43rd-ranked Girlz, who on World Cup debut lost all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia in 2019, have displayed marked improvements on this occasion in holding top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secure their first ever World Cup win in a 1-0 scoreline over Panama on their way to the knockout stages.

Menzies, believes these accomplishments was another show of the players' resilience and strength of character, as they were given very little chance against their more illustrious opponents.

"I believe this was another statement of the players' dedication and commitment and determination to make Jamaica proud. They have again commanded people's attention with this achievement but again, the programme requires more funding if they are to get much closer to these top teams.

"But I am so proud for what the programme continues to achieve, and all the credit must go to Cedella [Marley], who brought us all together with the vision to build this programme. I think we have earned some respect across the world after these performances, but the most important thing is that we earn the respect from our own people of Jamaica," Menzies told Sportsmax.tv in a recent interview.

“Culturally we don’t support female football or female sports on a whole. Corporate Jamaica has to understand how significant it would be for them to collaborate with the Girlz, they can create an impactful platform to help young females to dream big.

“Not only that, but brand recognition through these young ladies, will benefit for a lifetime. So, we have won this World Cup battle but have to keep going to win the war where the holistic development of the programme is concerned,” he added.

Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters, who is one of the youngest present at the global showpiece, echoed similar sentiments, as she noted that the hard work and sacrifice made by the players and backroom staff, will never truly be understood by those standing on the outside looking in.

“From the very start of this journey the ladies have been my first priority, watching them rewrite history each time they step on the field, and just being a part of this journey is truly an amazing feeling. what amazes me the most is how well this team stick together with so many distractions, but these ladies thrive on having their backs against the wall and are our living legends,” Walters said from the team’s base in Australia.

For Walters, the onus is now on the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Government and also corporate partners to ensure they build on the Girlz achievements going forward.

“Our focus as a nation needs to be redirected to our grassroots programme, providing proper sporting facilities, as well as adequate sponsorship. It takes a lot to care, but this team has gone beyond greatness, and we need to build on the history that these amazing ladies and staff have once again created.

“It is indeed a fresh testament of what the country can achieve with more substantial backing, as the Girlz accomplishments will provide opportunities and open many doors for these and our other players. It is football for all and we need to use this opportunity to ensure we keep developing,” Walters opined.

Andrew Price, who along with current Head coach Lorne Donaldson, were assistants to Menzies during the 2019 success, said the Girlz — backed by a committed and resolute coaching staff — again forged ahead despite the enormous disparity in rankings, history, funding and support when compared to opponents like France and Brazil.

In fact, even Italy, who the Girlz lost to in 2019, failed to progress from their group on this occasion.

“The performance in Australia has been phenomenal. The Girlz continue to secure historic achievements, almost proving that merely qualifying for their second-consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup wasn't enough.

“These Girlz like to dream big. They went to Australia with a plan and driven by the technical staff, they bought into the plan.  They believed that they had the mental capacity to traverse the group and they did because they believed in each other,” Price noted.

“I told people who would listen, that this team is four years older, four years wiser and the experience they got from 2019 would serve them well. They played each team on their merit and took one game at time. The focus was to get out of the group, and they have accomplished that by showing great fight resilience. Keep the fire burning Reggae Girlz,” the veteran tactician shared.

The Reggae Girlz will next face 25th-ranked Colombia in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, on Tuesday and standout goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer declared that they are ready to once again prove their doubters wrong.

“We were hugely underestimated, obviously with the noise going on outside of us playing and the lack of matches that we had leading into the tournament, I don’t think anyone took us seriously,” the outspoken Spencer opined.

“But as a group, both players and staff, we know we are resilient we had a point to prove and for months we have been saying it, we are getting out of this group, and we have proven just that. I am just proud of everyone for sticking together and getting it done and now we want to keep going,” the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper stated.

In another breathtaking display of grit, stubborn determination and just pure heart, Lorne Donaldson’s Reggae Girlz once again rewrote their names in the annals of Jamaica’s and the world’s sporting history, in more ways than one.

Not only did the Jamaicans hold mighty Brazil to their first goalless stalemate in a group stage at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, but also secured a spot in the knockout stages for the first time in the tiny island's history, and they did so without conceding a goal.

Such statistics in what many will describe as a fairytale run – particularly when their first appearance at the 2019 showpiece in France is taken into consideration –is both emotional and exciting at the same time.

During that 2019 debut, the Reggae Girlz conceded 12 goals, losing all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia. Now four years later, they held France to a goalless stalemate, defeated Panama and denied Brazil a spot in the Round of 16 for the first time since 1995.

The Reggae Girlz, who finished second on five points behind Group F winner France, who defeated Panama 6-3 in the other contest, will next face the winner of Group H, which is either Colombia or Germany, in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, next week.

Donaldson, who heaped praises on his team for their resilience in rising above challenges both on and off the field, said Jamaicans, both home and abroad, should be proud, as the achievement came a day after the country celebrated Emancipation Day and only a few days before celebrating its 61st year of Independence.

“This is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life, just to see these Girlz and see a country like Jamaica able to achieve this is just unbelievable. I thank the Girlz for doing this for Jamaica and the country should be proud,” Donaldson declared in a post-game interview.

“The resilience and the fight, we knew we were coming into a war, and we had to be ready, and we stood tall in the battle, and we won. We still have some more work to do but we will just enjoy tonight,” he added.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, put the team’s emotions into words.

“We are a team that goes through so much off the pitch no one else believes in us, the ones above us don’t believe in us but we believe in ourselves and as you can see from that performance today, we knew we could do it inside our group,” she said.

“It was tough to hold Brazil, but we proved it against France that we can do it, and it is not just one person, it is not just the defence but the entire team. Like I said, the ones above us don’t believe in us and they always put us through things that we don’t want to go through but that just gives us more fire in our veins to go out there and do well,” Spencer shared.  

With Marta starting the match for the first time in the group stage, Brazil maintained possession for most of the first half, but struggled to really test Spencer, much to the disappoint of the South Americans that dominated a crowd of just under 28,000 in the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

The Jamaicans, who seemingly thrive when their backs are against the wall, defended stoutly, as they absorbed pressure and answered all questions asked of them by the Brazilians.

Still, the Girlz did display some attacking intent even though they were unable to get anything on Brazil’s goal.

Brazil’s best chance of the game came in the 39th minute, when a delightful chip pass from Ary Borges found Tamires, who met it on the volley with the left-foot, but Spencer proved equal to it.

Brazil lifted the tempo in the second half, as they chased the goal needed to advance, but it was not to be.

A free kick from substitute Andressa and a header from Debinha in stoppage time represented Brazil’s closest chance of scoring the winning goal, as Jamaica’s organized defense stifled the South Americans throughout the game.

Teams: Rebecca Spencer, Chantelle Swaby, Allyson Swaby, Tiernny Wiltshire, Deneisha Blackwood, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Jody Brown (Solai Washington 85th), Vyan Sampson, Cheyna Matthews (Tiffany Cameron 46th), Khadija Shaw

Subs not used: Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks, Konya Plummer, Havana Solaun, Kalyssa Van Zanten, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Kameron Simmonds, Kayla McKenna, Peyton McNamara, Trudi Carter

Booked: Matthews (30th)

Brazil –Leticia, Antonia (Geyse 80th), Kathellen, Rafaelle, Luana (Duda Sampaio 80th), Tamires, Debinha, Marta (Andressa 80th), Adriana, Ary Borges (Bia Zaneratto 46th), Kerolin

Subs not used: Barbara, Camila, Ana Vitoria, Bruninha, Lauren, Monica, Angelina, Gabi Nunes

Booked:

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

Assistant referees: Katrin Rafalski (GER); Susanne Kueng (SUI)

Fourth official: Vincentia Amedome (TOG)

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.

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