The Jamaican women are a diamond in the rough that could really shine in the next World Cup cycle.
There’s nothing more disappointing than dropping out of a tournament without a win. After losing to Brazil, Italy and Australia, the Jamaican women’s national team will leave France with zero points in group play.
But the Reggae Girlz have earned so much more than what the score sheet showed. As the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a Women’s World Cup, they’ve generated so much joy and excitement across the West Indies that many are wondering what’s next for the island in the soccer universe.
— Samantha Lewis (@battledinosaur) June 18, 2019
You can find the hints of this team’s potential on and off the field. Here are five takeaways that suggest we haven’t seen the last of the Yardies yet.
Bunny Shaw never got to truly shine
There was hardly a moment when the commentators didn’t mention her name. If you know anything about Shaw’s career, it’s not hard to see why everyone had their eyes on her.
The 5-foot-11 forward has electric speed on the attack with a soccer IQ that has really blossomed during her time at the University of Tennessee. During her junior season, she scored 14 goals (the second most in school history) and earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week three times. And during the following season, she scored 11 goals in 11 games, despite taking a leave during the season to compete for her country.
Shaw was also one of the main forces driving the Reggae Girlz to their first qualification in the World Cup. She notched 13 goals in 12 matches. The 22-year-old, who grew up in the violent streets of Spanish Town, became a real inspiration for Jamaicans everywhere.
But unfortunately, Shaw didn’t see as many chances on net as many had hoped. During the Brazil and Italy games, Jamaica struggled to send players up into the final third to support her in the attack. It wasn’t until the second half of the Australia match that we really began to see Shaw and Jamaica’s offensive line combine in some dangerous ways.
Makes me think that the Reggae Girlz needed some time to warm up.
Havana Solaun scored her first goal against Australia
Speaking of warming up, when Jamaica got its wheels turning on Tuesday, they started finding holes in Australia’s defense. That is not an easy thing to do against the No. 6 ranked country in the world.
Nearing the 49th minute, Shaw was able to slot a ball through the Aussie back four to reach Solaun on a breakaway. Solaun outran her defender then hopped over Matilda keeper Lydia Williams to score Jamaica’s first-ever goal in World Cup history.
It was a beautiful build that showed that the Reggae Girlz not only have speed and athleticism on their side, but also great field vision when they are in focus.
HISTORY IS MADE AS HAVANA SOLAUN SCORES JAMAICA'S FIRST-EVER WOMEN'S WORLD CUP GOAL! LOOK AT WHAT IT MEANS TO THEM 🙌
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) June 18, 2019
Sydney Schneider came up big multiple times
Goalkeeper Sydney Schneider may have seen a lot of shots slip into her net, but boy did she come up with some major saves that her teammates and fans will remember forever.
The 19-year-old from UNC Wilmington managed to save two penalty kicks: One against Brazil and another against Italy.
Unfortunately, VAR robbed her of the second PK save. A review showed that Schneider did not have one foot on the goal line when the shot was taken. That’s illegal according to FIFA’s rules. Personally, I think the decision was brutal. Keepers are trained to come off their line to make saves and PKs favor strikers in the first place — who, by the way, are free to stutter step and do all sorts of fancy footwork before the shot is taken.
Regardless, Schneider can still walk away from the pitch with many saves to be proud of. She’s young and has plenty of time to develop into an excellent keeper. Heck, she hasn’t even finished college yet.
Many of the Girlz play professionally abroad or in the NCAA
Jamaica might not currently have a ton of resources to support their women’s soccer program, but the 23 players on their roster are playing with and against some of the top competition in the world.
Twenty out of its 23 players on the squad play in the United States or professionally abroad.
In the NCAA we have: Sydney Schneider (UNC Wilmington), captain Konya Plummer (UCF), Chantelle Swaby (Rutgers), Olufolasade Adamolekun (USC) and Mireya Grey (Washington).
To name a couple of pro players: Cheyna Matthews plays in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for the Washington Spirit while Shaw is set to play for Bordeaux in France this year.
The team is backed by Bob Marley’s daughter
When the Reggae Girlz gear up for their next international bout, they are in a good spot to receive more support from their home country — especially because Cedella Marley’s got their back.
In 2014, Marley was determined to revive the Reggae Girlz program after it was disbanded in 2010. She found funding to support the team and even designed the jerseys you saw them wearing throughout the tournament. She’s one of their biggest ambassadors.
With all the excitement around the Reggae Girlz in the tournament, who knows how much more resources and funding Marley and the squad can rally for the next round? With good fortune, this team could finally get the training environment they need to really prosper.
So the #ReggaeGirlz fall to #AUS, but not without making history! Halftime substitute @HavanaSolaun scores the Jamaica Women's Team's first ever World Cup goal after a beautiful feed from Khadija Shaw in the 49th minute. #WomensWorldCup #JAMAUS #StrikeHard pic.twitter.com/fgfZKZNgQw
— Visit Jamaica Now (@VisitJamaicaNow) June 18, 2019
In short: Many commentators have labelled Jamaica as “the Cinderella Story of the 2019 World Cup” and there was no question that the Reggae Girlz were running in glass slippers this year. But maybe this team is more like a diamond in the rough — a diamond that could really shine in the next World Cup cycle.
“The thing is, from day one, I’ve always said this is bigger than the World Cup,” coach Hue Menzies told Jamaican press. “This is just part of the journey that we have to face. That is something we consistently talk about. This is a learning experience.”