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.

While admitting to some disappointment that she was sent off in their opening Fifa Women's World Cup game against France, Reggae Girlz captain Khadija "Bunny" Shaw says she has nothing to be ashamed of, as she did what was required to assure her team the best possible result.

In fact, Shaw's general mindset and outlook is one of utmost positivity, especially given the fact that the Girlz remained composed and resolute to earn their first ever World Cup point, following her ejection at Sydney Football Stadium.

The towering striker, who is rated among the best in the world at present, was sent off in time added in the goalless stalemate with fifth-ranked France, after she was shown a second yellow card for an unnecessary sliding challenge on Wendie Renard. She had early picked up a 37th-minute caution.

Though video replay showed that there was minimal contact, the rules of the game are such that VAR could not have intervened unless it was a straight red card. Still, it mattered little as an appeal by Head coach Lorne Donaldson was dismissed by Fifa and her suspension stands.

"Every time I go out on the pitch, I always give my 100 percent and try to help the team and be the leader that I know I can be. So, at the end of the day, my ultimate goal is more than just to score goals, I always aim to help the team defensively as well and stuff like that.

"So, it's a bit difficult for me, my first red card but looking back at the game, I am taking the positives from it which is my overall performance and of course, our first point at the World Cup," Shaw said.

"Physically I am pretty banged up, it was a very physical game and I strive off that so I know that my overall effort is something that I can feel proud of, and I walked off the pitch, not in the best way, but I walked off knowing that I did my best. So yes, I've looked back at it but only taking positives from it," she added.

Reflecting on the performance, Shaw pointed out that the well-experienced French outfit, a quarterfinalist from 2019 and one of the favourites for this ongoing showpiece, was always expected to prove a handful. On that note, she credits her teammates for their grit and determination in executing the game plan.

"As a team, we spoke about the game, we had a while to prepare for the game and we knew it wasn't going to be an easy game. We knew defensively we had to be solid and attacking wise, we had to make the right decisions when we are on the ball, so I think overall our performance was good. 

"We dug deep as a team, we had some difficult moments when France had a lot of corners and transitional moments, but we fed off each other in different aspects and actions of the game and I think ultimately the result speak for itself,” the Manchester City stalwart noted.

Despite her suspension from the upcoming game against 52nd-ranked Panama, a team she has always had success against dating back to the historic qualification in 2018, Shaw, 26, has every confidence in her team to once again deliver accordingly.

"Outsiders looking in can see our team, we are always together, we are one family and like I said, we feed of each other’s energy. So, when you have that chemistry and that sort of relationship with your teammates, it means if one of the ladies are out of position and another cover for her, they are going to do that and we have always been that way," Shaw reasoned.

"We have always believed in ourselves and our capabilities and preparation wise, it wasn't the best, but we have to focus on what we can control and that is to give of our best on the pitch and hopefully it will always be good enough," the Spanish Town native said.

The 43rd-ranked Girlz are currently third in Group F on a point, same as France, both behind leaders Brazil on three points, while Panama is pointless.

A win, particularly by a handsome scoreline in Saturday's encounter at Perth Rectangular Stadium, would put the Girlz in a good position to achieve their main objective –to progress beyond the group stages.

They are scheduled to close group play against Brazil on August 2.

"I think that (upcoming game) is going to be a big challenge for us, we have played Panama multiple times before, so we know what they have to offer. But I think ultimately, we have to focus on ourselves go out there build from the result that we got against France, keep our confidence high and hopefully at the end of the day we can get the job done," Shaw ended.

 

Jamaica's assistant coach Xavier Gilbert says the senior Reggae Girlz are well aware of the importance of focusing on the task at hand, instead of overdosing on the high of earning their first ever Fifa Women's World Cup point.

Though their historic goalless draw against one of the tournaments favourite and fifth-ranked France is worth celebrating, Gilbert pointed out that the players required no reminders about their main objective at the tournament being co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand --to progress beyond the group stages.

In fact, the assistant to Head coach Lorne Donaldson emphasized that the focus shifted to their upcoming game against Panama, soon after they departed the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday, where the 43rd-ranked Girlz gritty performance delighted a crowd of almost 40,000.

"I think we did well, we had our game plan against France and the Girlz executed, not perfectly, but well enough to earn us a point in an atmosphere that almost felt like Jamaica's National Stadium. The crowd was really behind us and supported us and for that we are happy, even moreso, to get on the board where the point is concerned, but it's unto the next game," Gilbert told SportsMax.tv.

"It (the point) is huge, and it no doubt ranks high on the list of the country's accomplishments among male or female teams, but more importantly, it puts us in good stead for the rest of the tournament and the players know that. So, while they basked in the achievement, they remain focus on the job at hand and know the level of work they have to put in to earn it," he added.

The Girlz have now been subjected to much higher expectations than they usually entertain with many pundits now believing they can pull off what initially seemed an impossible task of getting out Group F which also includes number eight-ranked Brazil.

That hype and confidence behind the team has reached a level where the Girlz commanded the media spotlight for the past two days and even earned the respect of many, who would have probably scoffed at their ambitions in the buildup to this, their second appearance global showpiece, following three losses on debut in France 2019.

Still, Gilbert reiterated that the players are aware that the off-field hype isn't enough to carry the team and it is only through consistent efficiency in their performances against more top-quality teams that will truly prove them worthy.

"I'm sure the other teams will start to respect us now, we had objectives that we want to achieve so the strength of the first game performance would have increased the confidence level in the Girlz ability and what they can achieve in the tournament," he said.

"But we haven’t won anything yet, so obviously there’s a lot of expectations, but we still feel like the underdogs, and we still have a lot of work to do as we keep building towards a sustainable and competitive women’s football programme," Gilbert noted.

With Brazil currently at the top of the group on three points, the Jamaicans, who are joint second on a point with France, will be hoping to assert their authority against 52nd-ranked Concacaf rivals Panama, who are without a point, after a 0-4 loss to the Brazilians.

Though the Reggae Girlz setup has improved significantly where player quality is concerned, since that famous October 17, 2018, penalty shootout victory against the Panamanians, which secured their first World Cup berth, Gilbert said they will by no means grandstand against their rivals come Saturday at the Perth Rectangular Stadium, especially without inspirational captain Khadija "Bunny" Shaw.

The prolific striker picked up two yellow cards I that opening contest against France. Efforts have since been made to have the second caution that led to the suspension, overturned, but it is left to be seen what will transpire.

For now, Gilbert explained that they are proceeding accordingly.

"It's a huge disappointment both for her [Bunny] and the team that she will miss the next game, but the ladies are professional, they know what is at stake, they understand what to do and again it's just about the belief in their own ability to get the job done without Bunny.

"So we are preparing for the next game in that vein because we don't underestimate any team. So as soon as we got the Girlz recovered, it was back to business because we have to take care of business come Saturday," Gilbert ended.

 

After three defeats on their historic Fifa Women’s World Cup debut in France in 2019, Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz dreamt of picking up their first ever point at the global showpiece on this occasion, and that they did.

The 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz fought gallantly to hold overwhelming favourites and fifth-ranked France to a goalless stalemate, much to the delight of the over 39,000 spectators inside the Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.

France, a quarterfinalist in 2019, has never been involved in a goalless draw and little did they expect that it would have come against the Jamaicans, who lost captain Khadija “Bunny” Shaw in the latter stages of the high intensity encounter, as she was sent off in time added on.

Reggae Girlz Head coach Lorne Donaldson praised his team for their heroic display, particularly goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.

“She has been training for this, she hardly took a break after her club season, she just wanted to get right back into it. I saw her efforts in Jamaica, and I questioned whether she is doing too much, but she said no coach, I am ready, and she was just fantastic,” Donaldson said of the Tottenham Hotspur shot stopper.

With their first point in the bag, Donaldson declared intentions for the remainder of the tournament, with Concacaf rivals Panama, next in their line of sight.

“We came here believing we could get something out of the game, it was a fantastic French team, but we were determined to play hard, and the ladies gave it everything.

“This is the number one result we would have had in our history on this stage male or female, so now we have to keep getting points, it three games we just have to keep getting points and try to get ourselves in a good position to advance from the group,” he added.

It was always expected to be a dogfight given the Jamaicans intentions, as the Les Bleues entered the contest with six wins from their last eight outings, including wins over Norway, Denmark and Ireland earlier this month. However, the Reggae Girlz again displayed their ability to turn up when it matters most.

Though France was always the dominant force in the high-intensity and physical battle, the Jamaicans stood up strong and had their chances from set pieces, the best of which was when Shaw’s stinging free kick from about 25 yards out was parried by Pauline Peyraud-Magnin in goal for France.

At the other end, Kadidiatou Diani, forced a save from Jamaica’s goalkeeper Spencer and later saw another effort deflected wide to end the first half.

France maintained the momentum on the resumption, but the Jamaicans had a few good breaks in patches, none of which amounted to any real goal scoring chance.

In fact, there best chance of the half came in the 65th minute when Player of the game, Deneisha Blackwood’s weighted cross in the 18-yard box was headed down by Cheyna Matthews, but the effort lacked enough pace to beat Peyraud-Magnin.

France’s first effort on target in the second half came in the 76th when Eugenie Le Sommer squeezed a right-footed effort off while under pressure from Chantelle Swaby, but it was easily gathered by Spencer, who was well positioned at her near post.

After consistently probing, the French almost got the much sought after breakthrough in the 90th when substitute Vicko Becho floated in a cross that was headed on towards goal by Diani, but the late effort came back off the bar, leaving one of the tournament favorites to settle for a point.

Teams: Jamaica –Rebecca Spencer, Chantelle Swaby, Allyson Swaby, Vyan Sampson, Tiernny Wiltshire, Deneisha Blackwood, Jody Brown, Atlanta Primus (Havana Solaun 70th), Drew Spence, Cheyna Matthews (Solai Washington 70th), Khadija Shaw

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

Booked: Primus (24th), Shaw (37th, 90+1 (red)

France: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Maelle Lakrar, Estelle Cascarino, Wendie Renard, Sakina Karchaoui, Sandie Toletti, Grace Geyoro, Amel Majri (Vicko Becho 66th), Kadidiatou Diani, Eugenie Le Sommer, Clara Mateo (Kenza Dali 66th)

Subs not used: Solene Durand, Constance Picaud, Laurina Fazer, Elisa De Almeida, Selma Bacha, Aissatou Tounkara, Lea Le Garrec, Viviane Asseyi, Naomie Feller, Eve Perisset

Booked: Mateo (14th)

Referee: Maria Carvajal (Chile)

Assistant referees: Leslie Vasquez (Chile); Loreto Toloza (Chile)

Fourth official: Laura Fortunato (Argentina)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiffany Cameron believed the foundation for her to achieve continued success in a longstanding career, hinged on her making another Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, backed by a new signing.

So, the fact the Canada-born player was overcome with emotions when news came that she made Jamaica’s final squad to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, followed by a new deal with top flight Spanish club Real Betis, is understandable, as everything fell in place as she had hoped.

For the Reggae Girl striker, turned defender, both accomplishments are a testament of her hard work and unwavering determination to ensure she remains prominent on the international and club scene in a career spanning over 10 years.

“When the (World Cup) roster was released, I had a big smile on my face and I did shed a little tear because it has been quite the journey for me. This is my third World Cup, second with Jamaica and I had one with Canada at the youth level, so it is definitely something to really be proud of,” said Cameron, who was also a part of Jamaica’s historic team at the 2019 global showpiece in France.

Cameron’s sense of satisfaction, particularly where the Reggae Girlz are concerned, comes from the fact that it initially seemed like she would have missed out on the final 23, based on the approach Lorne Donaldson and his assistants took.

In fact, versatility was always expected to be a characteristic held in high regard by the coaching staff in making their selections and Cameron, recognizing that much, paraded her immense potential by assuming a role as a right full back.

It is that show of versatility that propelled her above others.

Prior to the Cup of Nations tournament, the 31-year-old did not get many minutes, until she accepted the fact that she would not make the squad as an attacker.

Despite logging over 14 goals and more than 10 assists in over 15 games for her previous club FC Gyor in the Hungarian top-flight league, Cameron, who could be considered an important leader in the Reggae Girlz group, embraced change and made the right full back position her comfort zone.

"I’m glad I defeated the odds. It just proves what I’m willing to do to represent Jamaica. I’ll play anywhere needed. Yes, I love to score goals and play forward, but it’s not all about that,” Cameron declared.

“I think I have really worked hard this year and I have proven that I am a versatile player wherever the national team needs me, I am able to play, and I think that is super important going into the World Cup that we have players that are okay with possibly playing in different positions that is being asked of them,” she added.

That said, Cameron, whose career has taken her to club in various parts of Europe and elsewhere around the world, expressed intentions to continue working extremely hard at improving her craft, as she looks forward to playing a key role in Real Betis’s charge when the Liga F gets under way.

“I’m really looking forward to my new adventure with Real Betis. I love the Spanish football culture as it is predominantly possession based. It’s similar to the style of football in Germany, where I’ve played for two and a half seasons in the top division, so this style of football won’t be foreign to me,” Cameron shared.

She continued: “I enjoy combinational play and possession-based football. I think my best qualities are my speed, my fitness, my versatility, my movement off the ball and my ability to combine with the players around me and create goal scoring opportunities for myself and others.

“I believe that no matter a player’s age they can always improve in all aspects of the game. This will be a good challenge for me and like I’ve proven with Jamaica, I respond well when I’m challenged and is expected to prove why I belong in an environment. I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve achieved thus far and I’m truly grateful that my efforts have been acknowledged.”

But for now, Cameron’s attention is fully focused on the Reggae Girlz objective which to get out of Group F at the World Cup. They are scheduled to open against fifth-ranked France on Sunday, before engaging Panama on July 29 and Brazil on August 2.

“I think its super important the team bonding off the field, I think we utilized our time well in the respective camps and we are ready and raring to go. The shout outs from Sean Paul, DJ Khalid and others, will also certainly help to fuel us,” the multi-talented player, who also dabbles in music, ended.

 

Jamaica’s assistant coach Xavier Gilbert is not denying that France will pose a challenge for his Reggae Girlz outfit to start their Fifa Women’s World Cup campaign. But he is hopeful that they will be able to overcome the daunting task and secure their first ever point at the global showpiece.

Gilbert’s cautious optimism came, as he was heartened by the Girlz lively training session, which he believes is a good indicator of the team’s mental and physical readiness ahead of Sunday’s opening Group F fixture against the fifth-ranked French team.

Well aware that France will be no pushovers, Gilbert, an assistant to Head coach Lorne Donaldson, is backing the 43rd-ranked Girlz to give their more illustrious opponents a run for their money when they take the field at the Sydney Football Stadium.  

“We have been analyzing the French team from before they got here and their (0-1) loss to Australia kind of confirmed some of the things that we already knew. They really don’t change their style of play; they kept pressing and the Australian faced them front on. But that was a part of their preparation, so we still have to be mindful of how they attack and how they defend, and we just have to execute our game plan,” Gilbert said.

“Nothing is wrong with dreaming, but I honestly think we really have a good chance of getting something from the game, especially if we play smart and contain them, it will get easier for us. We do have quality players who can match up against them, there is no doubt about that.

 “Psychologically our top striker [Khadija “Bunny” Shaw] is raring to go and they know that she can be a handful, so their efforts to contain her, might leave an opening for others in the attacking front to capitalise and those are some of things we want to exploit,” he added.

With two good sessions now under their belts, including a competitive squad match at the Victoria State Training Centre on Thursday, Gilbert explained that the focus now is to iron out a few finer tactical details to ensure an efficient execution against, France, in particular.

 “The Girlz were buzzing from the other day, and it showed in this session which is a good indication that they are ready and raring to go. The session was pretty much how we can exploit some weak areas in the French tactics and also how to curtail some of their strengths based on how we defend, especially in the wide areas.

“We know they are going to counter press a lot and then try and force us through the middle and they also play a lot in transition. So, this session was pretty much to look at countering some of the things that they have been doing over the last few games and how we anticipate they are going to attack us,” the tactician shared.

He pointed out that the Reggae Girlz 1-0 win over Morocco in their first and only warm-up encounter, also provided good insight where gauging the team was concerned.

“We did our analysis and showed them some clips of the things that we did well because part of that game was to fix some of the things that we want to do against the French team. We did some of that, and even the goal, was as a result of what we did before in terms of our attacking thrust. So, there were a lot of positives that came from that game in terms of how we want to operate going forward,” Gilbert noted.

Finally, Gilbert revealed that all concerns regarding Jody Brown’s knock which she picked up in the Morocco friendly, have been allayed, as the diminutive winger was fully integrated into the team’s session and brought up to speed on tactics.

“She is good, it is just about managing and ensuring that we have a full team, and everybody is available for selection ahead of our first game. But she will be fine, the nature of the injury is nothing to be alarmed about,” Gilbert declared.

After their contest with France, the Girlz will do battle against Panama on July 29 at Perth Rectangular Stadium and then close the group stages against Brazil at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, on August 2.

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."

The general belief in Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz camp is that they can progress beyond the group stages on this, their second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance.

In fact, Head coach Lorne Donaldson would readily declare that the possibility of his Reggae Girlz achieving the feat is by no means impossible. Still, he is under no illusion that defeating or merely taking points off the new-look, young and formidable Brazil outfit, as well as the well-organised and experienced France team, will be easy.

While their just-concluded camp in Amsterdam inspires confidence, as it assisted in fine-tuning certain technical and tactical aspects, Donaldson admits that the team is still not yet where he wants them to be with the July 20 to August 20 global showpiece in Australia and New Zealand, now nine days away.

“The camp was good; I wish we had a game which would have been the true test, but it was good, nonetheless. The players worked hard, and they seem very focused, but we're not there yet.

“We still have a few more days to go, so we start working on some of the tactical stuff and I the players are going in with a sense of purpose because they know what's at stake,” Donaldson told Sportsmax.tv shortly after arriving in Australia on Monday.

Since the start of their build up to the World Cup, Donaldson has stressed the importance of holding a tight defensive line, being very well organised and more effective when in possession, if they want to be competitive.

The 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz will open Group F play on July 23 against the number five-ranked Les Bleues, which is now the centre of their focus.

“I think France is playing a game (against Australia on Friday), so we might get a look at what their starting squad is like and just see exactly how we want to approach the game and how we want to match up against them and just go from there. If we want to be competitive, we will need to defend, and be very well organised and when we have possession, we would like to be more effective,” Donaldson shared.

“So, we still have some tactical stuff to look at and work on. I think our players know that they have to show up and be ready to perform so that makes life a little bit easier sometimes, but yes, we have to hold them accountable for certain things especially tactical mistakes,” he added.

After France, the Girlz will then tackle 52nd-ranked Panama on July 29, before closing against 8th-ranked Brazil on August 2.

However, before all of that, they will engage on final preparation game against Morocco which Donaldson believes will serve them well to lock in their plan towards efficient execution Down Under.

“We will use that game to try some things, we will give as much players as possible some minutes because the aim is to improve the work that we're doing, and we saw some stuff that we need to clean up. So, we will use this game to do that and then look at some tape with the players to see how much more we can brush up on our execution,” the coach noted.

That said, Donaldson, who was an assistant to Hue Menzies when the Girlz were hammered 0-3, 0-5 and 1-4 by Brazil, Italy and Australia on their World Cup debut in France in 2019, said they have no intentions of going out in that manner on this occasion.

“We expect to do well and get something out of the tournament,” he declared.

“We are not going to come here to the World Cup to lay down, we are going to push to get some success. We are planning to get out of the group, whichever way we have to get it done, we intend to get it done. So, it's just a matter of how well we execute when it comes to the big day,” Donaldson ended.

At 17 years old, Reggae Girl Solai Washington will be one of the youngest players at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this month, a feat well worth celebrating.

But in the midst of her excitement is a hint of disappointment, as Washington's older and more experienced sister Giselle, did not make the cut in Lorne Donaldson's final 23-player squad.

Such is the bond between the American-born siblings, who earn their Jamaican stripes through their mother, that young Washington readily admits it is the continued guidance and encouragement from her sister, that has propelled her to smile in the face of adversities and push past mental blocks that may deter her from playing the game she fell in love with at the tender age of three.

The elder Washington, who was instrumental in Jamaica's historic qualification to the global showpiece in France in 2019, also missed that tournament due to injury.

"My sister is disappointed because she loves Jamaica and the Reggae Girlz, but she is also extremely excited for me and has been one of my biggest supporters throughout my soccer journey. She is very proud of me and will be cheering me on while I am in Australia. I could not have done it without her and even though she won’t be on the field with me her presence is always there,” Washington told SportsMax.tv from her base in the United States.

"I started playing soccer [football] mainly because I was inspired from watching and playing soccer with Giselle. I cannot say enough about how awesome it has been to follow the example that she has provided, not just in soccer but also life. She is such an amazing player and person, the perfect role model.

"I've learnt so many lessons from her that they are too many to list, but from a young age she helped me improve technically on the ball and to understand the strategic concepts of the game. But I would have to say the biggest lesson she taught me is to work hard and never quit," she continued.

Washington earned her senior Reggae Girlz debut at the Cup of Nations tournament in Australia earlier this year, not merely for the sake of a trial but because she possesses great ability and gives high-quality effort — both on and off the ball — that bely her age and inexperience.

It is that demonstration that she was ready for a step up from youth football that impressed Donaldson and his assistants Xavier Gilbert, Ak Lakhani and Laura Thomas, and they duly obliged.

Since the Cup of Nations outing in Australia, where she rubbed shoulders with some of the women's game top players from the host nation, as well as Spain and the Czech Republic, Washington confidence and stock increased rapidly to the point where she is now motivated to become a potent performer in the Reggae Girlz setup, as her appetite for success is clear for all to see.

"To be honest the feeling is still indescribable. I am both proud of myself and remain hungry and eager to continue to get better and show the world what I know I can do on its biggest stage," she declared.

"Initially it was intimidating coming into such a close knit and professional team and this has all been a very new experience to me so it was a bit difficult at times, but it also inspired me to work even harder to become the best footballer I can be. But since I've settled in, it has been nothing but a joy and an honour to share the field with such talented players," Washington noted.

Aside from mouth-watering talent, Washington still in high school at Chamblee, has an unflinching desire to make her mark at the July 20 to August 20 World Cup, where the Reggae Girlz will contest Group F alongside France, Brazil and Panama. 

Given her speed, fearlessness and dribbling which makes her a dangerous impact player and a thrilling prospect for the Reggae Girlz, the World Cup represents Washington's moment and time to shine, and if she gets the opportunity to do so, many will remember her name.

"This is huge for me and my career, this is what you dream of when you get involved in the game, playing with and against some of the best players in the biggest games on the biggest stage, so I'm really happy," the bubbly attacker shared.

"I will be heading into my senior year of high school after this summer, so I am still very young and basically just getting started. So, I am excited for my future and what is to come because there is some way to go before I hit the tip of the iceberg where accomplishments are concerned so I am always staying hungry and, more importantly, humble," she said.

Having already assisted Chamblee High School to a State Championship, becoming the first DeKalb County School District girls football team to achieve the feat, Washington was also named Georgia High School Soccer Player of the Year for her 42 goals complemented by nine assists.

She was also instrumental in guiding her Concorde Fire team to the ECNL Under-19 National Championship last year, a title which she is currently hoping they will retain.

This tournament, the tall but nippy player believes will assist in maintaining her match fitness and, by extension, improve her craft before the big dance.

"I have had to make a quick turn around since the Jamaica camp and am now in San Diego for ECNL Nationals. I am playing games with my club team and competing for another National Championship, hoping to get it back-to-back. For sure, this will help with both my physical and mental preparation leading up to the World Cup," Washington ended.

Every FIFA Women's World Cup sees young players come to the fore and explode into popular consciousness and Jamaica’s rising goalkeeper Liya Brooks is hoping that next month's showpiece in Australia and New Zealand will present with her moment of glory.

It may seem far-fetched given the fact that she has more experienced counterparts Rebecca Spencer and Sydney Schneider to contend with, but much like Schneider rose to prominence during the Girlz World Cup debut in France 2019, the American-born Brooks knows it is by no means impossible.

In France, Schneider, then a 19-year-old rookie, pulled off a stunning penalty save in the Reggae Girlz opening game against Brazil, though they inevitably lost 0-3.

Brooks, 18, is yearning for a big break like that when the Girlz do battle in Group F against France, Brazil and Panama at the July 20 to August 20 World Cup, but until then, she is focused on putting in the necessary work to continue impressing Head coach Lorne Donaldson and his assistants.

"Of course, there’s a competition, and I'll certainly fight for that spot in the starting team which would mean a whole lot to me at this point in my career, but I just want what is best for the team. So even if I wasn’t the one, then that’s ok," Brooks told SportsMax.tv from her base in the United States. 

"I just have to put in the work. Plain and simple and I’ll do that without hesitancy, especially going to college now, I know that will no doubt take my fitness and lifestyle to another level, and I can’t wait for that as well," she added.

Though she is still basking in the fact that she was selected in Donaldson's final squad, Brooks, who earns her Island stripes through her mother Tandi Nelson-Brooks, revealed that celebrations will be low-key, as she braces for her freshman year at Washington State University.

"It’s a great feeling being selected for my first World Cup. There’s nothing like it, because it is the highest stage of competition in both the men and women’s game, so of course it’s a very big achievement. 

"Unfortunately, there are no real celebrations. I’m off to college so an eight-hour car ride is all the celebration I’ll be doing, but I’ll be happy to celebrate a little with my new teammates, who I'm sure are just as happy as I am," she shared.

Still, the sense of pride and accomplishment Brooks feels cannot be understated having successfully transitioned from Under-17 and Under-20 representation, where she showed immense ability, which caught the senior Reggae Girlz coach staff's attention since their historic tour of South Korea late last year.

"It’s extremely massive. It puts my name on the international map at the senior level at an early stage, but for me it just makes me hungrier to strive for more than a spot on the roster next time," Brooks declared. 

"I want to play and being around the senior players have shown me that there is always work to be done, but I’ll learn from those around me and use my own experiences along the way to get there. The aim is always to push as hard as possible and to be a better player and these experiences will help me to improve," she noted.

That said, the tall and agile goalkeeper admitted that the initial stages of her transition were nerve-wracking and did indeed test her mettle but credited her more senior counterparts for their guidance in ensuring she held firm.

"It definitely wasn’t easy and still isn’t. The team itself is great and very welcoming, but I personally struggle with my own confidence and that’s what can bring down my performance at times. The team recognized that and encouraged me instead," she explained.

"Becky [Spencer] and Syd [Schneider] are amazing. They are excellent players and even better people. Alyssa [Whitehead], our goalkeeper coach, is as well. All three of them inspire me and push me to be a better player whether they know it or not. That made it really fun, and they got me through even my physically tough training," Brooks ended.

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