The Jamaican women’s football team created a moment of history in Melbourne, Australia today (2 August) by making it through to the last sixteen of the tournament for the very first time and in doing so they also eliminated the might of Brazil.
The match ended in a 0-0 draw which was enough to keep the Reggae Girlz above their South American opponents in the table. At the same time France saw off Panama with an emphatic 6-3 victory in their final game to secure top spot in Group F, but Jamaica go through as runners up.
The game was one of few chances and at the final whistle there was an outpouring of emotion as realisation kicked in as to just what had been achieved. The team have had to overcome a host of obstacles placed in their way to get to this point, including having to rely on a crowd-funding exercise to pay for their journey to the competition.
For the Brazilians it was a huge disappointment as they fail to make the knock-out stage for the first time ever, also meaning that the game proved to be 37-year-old legend Marta’s final ever World Cup appearance.
Jamaica will now play the winner of Group H, which reaches its conclusion tomorrow (3 August) and will be either Colombia or Germany.
Counter attacking strategy works perfectly
Going into the game, the Jamaicans had put themselves into a strong position with two excellent results from their opening fixtures. Their goalless draw with the French was followed up by a 1-0 win over Panama, which was achieved without star striker Khadija Shaw, who was serving a one-match suspension after being sent off against France.
It meant that they knew a draw would be enough, but sometimes that can leave teams uncertain of whether to defend what they’ve got, or attack trying to make sure. With Shaw back they seemed to settle on keeping players behind the ball and hitting the Brazilians on the counter.
It worked a dream and Shaw very nearly put the icing on the cake when she burst through in the last ten minutes, but her well struck effort just cleared the bar.
Deep into stoppage time there was an almighty scramble in the Jamaican box, but goalkeeper Becky Spencer claimed the loose ball and seconds later the referee’s final whistle saw players and staff falling over each other, hugging and crying with delight.
Force to be reckoned with
The draw means that the team have yet to concede a goal and their performances are sure to have made all the other qualifiers for the last sixteen, sit up and take notice. The team have displayed incredible belief and togetherness, coupled with real tenacity in all three hugely impressive and disciplined performances.
Pride of a country
Coach Lorne Donaldson was visibly thrilled at the outcome and spoke of his girls winning a war, praising their resilience. He said it was one of the best feelings he’d ever had, and called it unbelievable, before thanking his players for what they had done for the country.
He confirmed that he would be celebrating with a few beers and attempted a cartwheel, but it finished as more of a forward role. Undoubtedly the joy he showed probably matched that of everyone back home in the Caribbean.
Next opponents soon to be confirmed
They now will be watching on with great interest at the final two fixtures at the group stage of the tournament, when Group H comes to its conclusion tomorrow.
Currently Columbia sit at the top and will remain there and become Jamaica’s next opponents if they manage at least a draw against Morocco. However, if they fall to defeat and Germany beat South Korea, it will be the Germans who will be up next.
Haiti tumble out
Unfortunately Haiti will not be joining them as their World Cup adventure ended with disappointment, when they were defeated 2-0 at the hands of Denmark. That meant they had lost all three games and failed to score in any of them.
They certainly didn’t disgrace themselves, far from it. But it was clear that despite playing some attractive football, especially against England – who could well go on to lift the trophy – their shortcomings were there for all to see.
They battled hard but lack of firepower cost them dearly. Nevertheless, they acquitted themselves admirably and can look back with considerable pride in what has to be remembered was their first ever World Cup.
Meanwhile, all the Caribbean attention now will focus solely on Jamaica, and after their fantastic showing so far, confidence will be high for them to progress still further, and they could very well still be involved well into the tournament’s final week of matches.