Reggae Girlz, the first female Caribbean team to play in a FIFA World Cup, came away with their pride intact after an opening encounter loss in the 2019 competition in France.
When these Jamaican players stepped onto the Stade des Alpes Stadium on Sunday, June 9, the third day of this World Cup, they carried the hopes and will of supporters across the region as pathbreakers but went down 0-3 to the mighty Brazilians.
The final score does not tell the whole story as the Jamaican Girlz playing with the entire Caribbean on their shoulders accounted for 43 per cent of ball possession, 13 attempts on goal against 18 of the experienced Brazilians.
Marvellous athletic work by Goalie Sydney Schneider ensured the deficit was only three goals. Among her impressive saves was stretching to the left and palming out a penalty kicked by Brazil’s Andressa.
Striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw also did not make it easy for the Brazilians with constant raids on the defence of the experienced South Americans.
The Brazilians who have never lost a World Cup opener were led from the front by striker and Player of the Match, Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva, who scored all three goals, in the 15th, 50th and a classic free kick in the 64th minute. This was the first hat-trick by a Brazilian since 1999.
Coach Hue Menzies thought that the newcomer Girlz were too tentative against the Brazilians, who entered the game for their seventh straight World Cup.
“When we first started the game, we showed too much respect for them,” he said. But as the Girlz warmed-up before an estimated 18,000 crowd of mostly supporters, “I think in the second half, we improved.”
“We have another big game that we have to get a result,” he said of the coming fixture against Italy on June 14.
“We showed a lot of resilience and we haven’t seen the best of ‘Bunny’ Shaw, so that is something that we are going to push her a little bit and I do believe that she is going to respond to that, so we are just going to back and look at things and identify some of the areas that we need to fix and then after that just work on it in training,” said a confident Menzies.
Not only are the Jamaicans rookies to the tournament but they also have the average youngest at 23 years and seven months.
The United States players average 29 years, followed by the Brazilian at 28 years and five months.
The lone and historic Caribbean side could take heart from the age statistics as it means that regardless of the results in their first outing many of them could return to the next World Cup in 2023, and beyond once Jamaica qualifies.
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