Tue | Dec 5, 2023

Mission possible?

Girlz face difficult second-leg assignment against Canada

Published:Tuesday | September 26, 2023 | 12:08 AMJob Nelson/Sports Coordinator
A shot from Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw (right) is blocked by Canada’s defender Vanessa Gilles during last Friday’s first leg of the Olympic Games qualifier at the National Stadium. Canada won 2-0.
A shot from Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw (right) is blocked by Canada’s defender Vanessa Gilles during last Friday’s first leg of the Olympic Games qualifier at the National Stadium. Canada won 2-0.

The Reggae Girlz face the herculean task of overcoming the defending Olympic Games champions and world No. 10-ranked Canada in a hostile BMO Field capacity environment in Toronto to secure a place at the quadrennial event when they meet today at 6 p.m. Jamaica time.

Needing to surpass a two-goal deficit from their first leg at the National Stadium last Friday, the Reggae Girlz’s plight will be compounded by Canada’s coach Beverly Priestman’s desire for her players to press, not being satisfied to sit back on the advantage they already possess.

“We have to ride on the momentum. To go home and sit in and defend won’t get the best out of the team,” Priestman said after the match on Friday.

Jamaica’s coach, Lorne Donaldson, and his technical and medical teams are also dealing with niggling injuries to Reggae Girlz players that he hopes will all be mended to provide every available option for the encounter, a choice missing for the first leg.

Donaldson will need his full complement of players today to repel the advances of the Canadians, especially in attack where the Girlz were deficient Friday evening when their opponents dictated the action for most of the match.

“Everybody should be okay and available. We have Kameron (Simmonds), who was carrying a little strain. We didn’t want to chance it and make it worse, and Chantelle (Swaby) was carrying a back strain, but we think she is going to be okay for the second game,” Donaldson said.

Attack must be the focus, with the Girlz being two goals down and facing elimination from a historic first Olympic Games qualification. They must take the presented chances, a scarcity but for a few looks, mainly during Friday night’s opening minutes.

It is a situation that Donaldson rued, with the Canadians scoring from their first real opportunity.

“They got their chances, and they took them. We got our chances, and we didn’t. We weren’t as good as we should be (in front of goal),” Donaldson said Friday.

On the field, the Canadians had the swagger over the 37th-ranked Reggae Girlz, especially in the second half, when the Jamaicans chased their opponents without much success, similar to the four times both teams faced each other before, with the Canadians winning all.

During that second stanza on Friday, forward Adriana Leon unleashed her range of attacking prowess on the Jamaicans, with goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, the standout for the Girlz, rebuffing her several times before the forward eventually scored three minutes into added time.

The Reggae Girlz should again have difficulty containing Leon, who received commendation on her performance on Friday from coach Priestman and with attacking partner Nichelle Prince, must be nullified.

“Adriana is unpredictable as she can dribble, finish, and was dangerous getting in behind, linking up with players, and the goal probably summarised what Adriana does,” Priestman said.

Swaby and Simmonds trained with the other members of the Reggae Girlz on Sunday and were expected to practise again yesterday afternoon, which should allay some of Donaldson’s concerns.

This, however, presents a selection dilemma as Swaby’s central defence place in the starting 11 was occupied on Friday by former Reggae Girlz captain Konya Plummer, who performed creditably. Plummer had not started for the Reggae Girlz for approximately two years after pregnancy and childbirth.