‘More investment needed!’ - Menzies urges further support for women’s football programme
As far as lessons go, Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz were given a strong one yesterday, falling 5-0 to Italy in their second Group C FIFA Women’s World Cup (FWWC) match at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims.
Head coach Hue Menzies acknowledged his team’s shortcomings, pointing to a lack of experience at this level and another naive defensive performance, which has now seen the Jamaicans conceding 15 goals in their last five competitive games.
“Obviously, when you come into a tournament like this, and, obviously, we are in a tough group, you are playing against countries with a lot of resources. We have to invest in our programme. That is important,” said Menzies.
“We are the youngest team, so hats go off to Italy. I think they are disciplined, committed to defend, and that’s where we have to take a page out of their book. There are a lot of things we can learn here. But at the end of the day, we have to be doing this more often because we have the tools, we really do. We have the components to do this. We just have to, as a country, as a nation, as corporate Jamaica, come and invest in football because we do have the tools [to do well at this level],” Menzies added.
“We are learning as we go along. It’s unfortunate that we have to come here to learn, but we don’t get to play in this sort of environment on a regular basis,” he added.
Juventus midfielder Cristiana Girelli was chief destroyer for the Italians, bagging a hat-trick with her club teammate Aurora Galli, a 65th-minute substitute, scoring two, to give the Italians their joint biggest-ever win at the FWWC, matching their rout of Chinese Taipei in 1991.
The result also means that Italy (six points) are through to the Round of 16 of the competition, and while the Jamaicans still have a mathematical chance of advancing, they are in the departure lounge ahead of their final group game on Tuesday against Australia, who, like Brazil, are on three points after their two games.
In fairness, things started well enough for the Jamaicans, who showed a lot of the enterprise that was missing in their opening game.
But when defender Allyson Swaby brought down Italian striker Barbara Bonansea in the box in the eighth minute after an error from Sashana Campbell, things took a cruel turn for the Jamaicans.
Drama followed as goalkeeper Sydney Schneider went to her left to deny Cristiana Girelli from the spot. The play was, however, called back on review, with Schneider shown to have moved off her line too early. Girelli stepped up again, this time going to Schneider’s right, sending the Jamaican goalkeeper the wrong way for Italy’s opener in the 12th minute.
Still, the Reggae Girlz remained in the game, pressing the Italians and looking comfortable enough to suggest that it wouldn’t be such a bad night for the Jamaican fans, who numbered among the over 12,000 in attendance at the venue.
However, just as the Jamaicans were finding their way in the contest, the Italians struck again, thanks to another defensive lapse.
A left-sided corner kick lodged at the near post somehow found its way past a wall of Jamaicans and on to the left thigh of Girelli, whose touch was enough to elude a diving Schneider in the 25th minute.
“ … This is part of the experience. We have to figure out ways to get back on track, get back to the game plan and not worry about the play that happened,” Menzies added, again pointing to inexperience.
The Girlz came close to pulling one back four minutes later when Mireya Grey’s cross from the left of the Italian goal was not properly handled by the Italian defenders. However, neither Khadija Shaw nor Olufolasade Adamolekun could get any meaningful contact on the ball to steer it goalward.
Grey was again involved in a Jamaican half-chance, shooting wide from distance as the half wore down.
The real heartbreaker came seconds after the resumption when Schneider failed to gather or punch a looping cross from the right, with Girelli rising high to head into the net, extending the Italians’ lead and securing her hat-trick.
Jamaica really should have got themselves on the scoresheet in the 56th minute when a mix-up in Italy’s backline saw Shaw and Havana Solaun failing to get efforts on an empty goal.
Galli ended whatever minor doubts might have been lingering with a thunderous shot from about 20 yards out, which lodged in the top left corner of Jamaica’s goal in the 71st minute despite Schneider getting a finger to the ball and returned 10 minutes later to pick up a delightful through pass before rounding Schneider and tapping home.
Menzies credited the Girlz’s fight as a main positive along with the experiences being gained at the tournament.
“The players went after it. They did not give up,” he said. “If you were just walking into the stadium, you wouldn’t know it was a 5-0 game, especially towards the end of the second half. We were giving it everything, and I have to give them some credit for that.”