Sports

Underfunded Jamaica aims to undermine Brazil’s status in Women’s World Cup group finale


Jamaica Fifa Women's World Cup

Jamaica’s Allyson Swaby, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Women’s World Cup Group F soccer match between Panama and Jamaica in Perth, Australia, Saturday, July 29, 2023. Jamaica won 1-0. (AP Photo/Gary Day)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Four months ago, Jamaica’s players felt unprepared for the Women’s World Cup, blaming inadequate support from their soccer federation for leaving them without proper practice time or pay.

They turned to crowdfunding, which has raised nearly $100,000 to help cover their travel expenses to Australia.

Now, they’re a win or draw away from advancing to the knockout round for the first time. Ranked 43rd, Jamaica takes on No. 8 Brazil in a group-stage finale Wednesday.

“We always look forward to say, ‘We need to try any way possible to get to the second round,’” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said. “I think the players are liking Australia. They like it here. They see some kangaroos. So we want to stay a little bit longer.”

Helping their cause against Brazil, a team that has advanced past every group stage since 1999, is the return of top scorer Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. The all-time leading scorer for the Reggae Girlz sat out the 1-0 win over Panama after being red-carded late in the opening 0-0 draw against France.

“She sets the standard in training and in games,” midfielder Peyton McNamara said of Shaw. “And she’s someone we can all look up to when we’re playing with her.”

Jamaica Fifa Women's World Cup

Jamaica’s Allyson Swaby, right, and Tiernny Wiltshire celebrate at the end of the Women’s World Cup Group F soccer match between Panama and Jamaica in Perth, Australia, Saturday, July 29, 2023. Jamaica won 1-0. Jamaica won 1-0. (AP Photo/Gary Day)

Without Shaw, the Reggae Girlz earned their first Women’s World Cup victory against Panama. The win was the first for a Caribbean team in the history of the tournament.

Defense has given Jamaica the upper hand against its first two opponents. Becky Spencer is the first goalkeeper to record two clean sheets for Jamaica in a World Cup. Defender Deneisha Blackwood earned player of the match against France.

“All along, we know we’re going to come into the World Cup as being the underdogs,” Donaldson said. “It’s nothing new to us.”

In their second Women’s World Cup tournament, Jamaica’s underdogs have the chance to oust one of the perennial top teams. Brazil, coming off a 2-1 loss to France, needs a win to ensure it advances to the knockout round for the seventh consecutive time.

“Brazil is a powerhouse,” Donaldson said. “We just have to come out and match them step for step. They’re very skillful. And we know they’re going to come after us with everything that they have. So we have to be ready.”

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