Assistant Coach Gilbert says Reggae Girlz bracing for Canada hurdle
France’s Maelle Lakrar (left) tackles Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw during the 2023 Women’s World Cup Group F football match at Sydney Football Stadium in Australia on July 23, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

ACCORDING to assistant coach of the Jamaican senior women's football team Xavier Gilbert, the Reggae Girlz have the quality to compete with Canada, after keeping the majority of the World Cup squad for the two-legged Olympic Qualifying tie against the defending Olympic champions.

The first game is slated for September 22 at National Stadium in Kingston, and the second game is set for September 26 in Toronto.

Due to their academic commitments, Head Coach Lorne Donaldson will not use World Cup rookies Peyton McNamara and Kalyssa Van Zanten in the upcoming matches. Havana Solaun, an accomplished player, is also reportedly unavailable.

Olufolasade Adamolekun, who is said to be in particularly good shape of late, and the adaptable Sashana "Pete" Campbell, a World Cup alternate, have been brought in as a result.

Jamaica defender Tiernny Wiltshire (left) comes under pressure from Colombia forward Linda Caicedo during the 2023 Women's World Cup round of 16 match at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Australia on August 8, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

"It is very close to the World Cup squad we had," Gilbert told the Jamaica Observer. "Unfortunately, some people aren't available due to other commitments.

"We knew we would have some of these challenges with some of these players but these are the best players we have right now. I believe it to be a balanced and experienced squad," he continued.

The 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz became the first Caribbean nation, male or female, to compete in the World Cup knockout stages since Cuba's achievement in 1938, after holding France and Brazil to scoreless draws and winning their first World Cup match with a 1-0 victory over Panama.

The Jamaicans are currently vying to become the first Caribbean country to qualify for women's football at the Olympic Games, and positive results against Canada would do just that. Additionally, accomplishing their Olympic goal would guarantee them a spot in the Concacaf Women's Gold Cup.

GILBERT...we're going to have to be smart in both games and give it our best shot and, hopefully, at the end of both games we can make it to the Olympics.

"Canada is Canada and they are still in the top 10. We are aware of how difficult it will be to defeat them because they are the reigning Olympic winners. The World Cup is history; all that is left for us to do is concentrate, come together, and perform to the best of our abilities.

"It's two games, and we're going to have to be smart in both games and give it our best shot and, hopefully, at the end of both games we can make it to the Olympics," Gilbert stated.

Following their fairytale run at the Fifa Women's World Cup it was expected that several of the Reggae Girlz would soon thereafter sign contracts with prestigious leagues, and Gilbert stated that the knowledge they have already garnered will help them in their upcoming matches against Canada.

New contracts were signed by Allyson Swaby, Trudi Carter, Tiernny Wiltshire, Konya Plummer, and Deneisha Blackwood.

Jamaica's Allyson Swaby (right) and her teammates (from left) Drew Spence, Deneisha Blackwood and Atlanta Primus celebrate scoring the team's first goal during the Women's World Cup Group F football match versus Panama at Perth Rectangular Stadium in Australia on Saturday, July 29, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Swaby, a 26-year-old defender who formerly played for AS Roma, has committed to Italian side AC Milan through the year 2026. This will be her second season competing in the women's Serie A. Wiltshire, a right back, joined Stade De Reims of French Division One.

Carter, whose time with AS Roma was cut short by injury, joined the Mexican team Atletico San Luis; and Blackwood and Plummer are both currently working there for the organisations Pumas Unam and Tigres Uanl, respectively, also in Mexico.

"I think them being signed to new clubs would have definitely boosted their confidence and encourage them to continue to do well at this level. The better they do at this level is the more marketable they become. And in terms of being demanding on the scene for other clubs, if they continue to do well they will continue to improve, get better contracts, and be in a better environment," explained Gilbert.

On Tuesday, Donaldson and his group are to gather in Jamaica.

Tickets for all the games in September are currently available at and

Squad: Sydney Schneider, Rebecca Spencer, Liya Brooks, Allyson Swaby, Chantelle Swaby, Konya Plummer, Deneisha Blackwood, Tiernny Wiltshire, Tiffany Cameron, Vyan Sampson, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Khadija Shaw, Jody Brown, Solai Washington, Kameron Simmonds, Trudi Carter, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Cheyna Matthews, Olufolasade Adamolekun, Kayla McKenna, Sashana Campbell

BY RUDDY ALLEN Staff reporter

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