JAMAICA'S senior Reggae Girlz return to action for the first time since their Cinderella run at the Fifa Women's World Cup, taking on Canada in the first of two Olympic qualifiers between the two nations, this evening at National Stadium.
The game is set to begin at 7:00 pm. The return match is scheduled for September 26 at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada.
The Jamaicans are currently vying to become the first Caribbean country to qualify for women's football at the Olympic Games, and a positive outcome against reigning champions Canada would do just that.
Canada and Jamaica were paired in the Olympic play-off after finishing second and third, respectively, at the Concacaf Women's Championship in Mexico in July 2022.
The United States qualified for the Olympics automatically by defeating Canada 1-0 in the Concacaf Women's Championship final. Jamaica defeated Costa Rica 1-0 during extra time in the third-place play-off, after losing 0-3 to Canada in the quarter-final.
Canada have defeated Jamaica in all nine prior games, outscoring the Reggae Girlz 60 to one. However, Jamaica survived longer at the recent Fifa World Cup, reaching the round of 16, whilst Canada were eliminated at the group stage.
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.
Lorne Donaldson, head coach of the Reggae Girlz, said that while the Fifa Women's World Cup and the Olympic Qualifiers are two different tournaments, he is hoping the Girlz can bring over their form.
"We played France and Brazil in the World Cup and now we are playing Canada. I mean, the strategy there was to get through the group and so we have three games to do that. [The strategy for] this one is whosoever scores the most goals wins — and obviously we have to come out and score goals," Donaldson said.
"We can't watch [be distrcted by] the result [0-3 loss] at Canada. They are the defending Olympic champions and there's a reason why they win. Canada has always been in the top four or five in the world and so going into the World Cup and didn't perform actually augurs well for them.
"There are some players... a few players who weren't at the World Cup, and they are starters and big-time players for Canada. They will come and actually give a good account of themselves and we have to just match it.
"We can't just think about what happened over a year ago as we are trying to progress and we are trying to make sure that whatever they do, we can do just as well or even better," the tactician added.
Donaldson has omitted World Cup debutantes Peyton McNamara and Kalyssa Van Zanten from the upcoming games, owing to school requirements, while the seasoned Havana Solaun is thought to be unavailable. As a result, Olufolasade Adamolekun, who has been in fine form recently, and the versatile Sashana "Pete" Campbell, a World Cup replacement, have been called up.
"I think the starting 11 and the players coming off the bench, and anybody who enters this game, have to be key players for the team. If your name is being called, you have to be ready.
"I mean, it is not like 'Bunny' Shaw going to be the only one out there playing and so we can just read through the lines to see the teams we have been starting [with] over the last four games. I won't call one name or anything but they are all going to be called upon — even the coaches. The first line is me and our staff and then the players and everybody," Donaldson said.
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