Jamaica’s been waiting a long time for their share of the spotlight. Prior to their qualification for this tournament, the closest they’d ever come to qualifying was a fourth-place finish in their continental tournament, where finishing third would have sent them to a playoff for a World Cup spot.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Jamaica is young and inexperienced, with four players playing collegiate soccer in the US, and another four without club teams. The cupboard is not bare, but with seven players 21 or younger, it’s asking a lot to expect them to progress in the tournament.
How They’ve Fared
This is Jamaica’s first World Cup.
How They Qualified
Jamaica beat Panama in the third place playoff game of the 2018 CONCACAF tournament, thus qualifying for the World Cup.
Player You Know
Cheyna Matthews is currently the most recognizable Jamaican player, even though she’s only appeared three times for the Reggae Girlz. After completing her collegiate career at Florida State, Matthews was drafted by the NWSL’s Washington Spirit, where she’s scored ten goals in 43 appearances since 2016. Despite being born in the United States, Matthews is eligible to play for Jamaica because her mother was born there, and now the 25-year-old is going to France.
Player You’ll Know Soon
Khadija “Bunny” Shaw is going to score a goal at the World Cup. If you’ve seen her play, you wouldn’t consider that to be a bold prediction. Standing at 5’11, the 22-year-old played just two seasons at the University of Tennessee, scoring 27 goals in 35 appearances, to go with 29 goals in 21 games for Jamaica. She’s a force of nature, and though she limped off the pitch during Jamaica’s most recent friendly against Scotland, coach Hue Menzies has said that she’ll be fine. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of this in France:
This goal by Bunny Shaw tho pic.twitter.com/zkZB9EpZeT— Regal Rowdies (@RegalRowdies) September 21, 2017
World Cup Outlook
Bunny Shaw alone is enough to ensure that Jamaica is not the worst team in the tournament, but advancing to the knockout stage is probably a longshot. They could beat Italy and finish third, possibly advancing as one of the best third place teams, but I’m not laying money on that.