The Matildas will look to cement their place in the knockout stages of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, when they take on Jamaica at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble this Tuesday night (Wednesday morning AEST).
While the intricacies of every potential situation in Group C seem to take a Masters in Applied Mathematics to understand, the equation for the Matildas is simple: win and they’re in. No matter what happens in the Italy vs Brazil game, victory against Jamaica will see Australia progress to the Round of 16, either automatically as one of the top two teams, or as the best ranked third-placed team.
Matildas defender Clare Polkinghorne will likely sit out the match. With Steph Catley deputising in the centre of defence, manager Ante Milicic may turn to less-used players such as Aivi Luik, Teigen Allen and Gema Simon late on in an effort to keep his team fresh for the second round.
Jamaican manager Hue Menzies told journalists that – while the margin would have to be uncharacteristically large – he was still confident his team could beat Australia and progress to the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Road to France
Jamaica’s journey to this Women’s World Cup was a long and complicated one. Like many smaller football nations, they were forced to qualify via both a preliminary tournament and a sudden-death play-off within their home confederation.
The Reggae Girlz’ first steps to qualification began way back in May 2018, where they saw off both Guadeloupe and Martinique before being held to a point at home by Haiti. Finishing top of their group, the team progressed to the second stage of Caribbean qualifiers, which they breezed through undefeated, conceding just twice.
With the preliminary tournament done and dusted, Jamaica entered their sixth CONCACAF Women’s Championship, where they would face Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba in the group stage. Following a 2-0 defeat to Canada, Jamaica qualified for the tournament semi-finals with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and a 9-0 demolition of Cuba.
Beaten handsomely by the United States in the semi-final, the Reggae Girlz went into the third-place play-off against a hugely impressive Panama side knowing a win would send them to France. With scores locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes and 2-2 after extra time, manager Hue Menzies substituted goalkeeper Sydney Schneider for the more experienced Nicole McClure, who saved two Panamanian penalties to send Jamaica through as the first Caribbean team ever to play in the Women’s World Cup.
If You Know Your History…
That the Reggae Girlz are even at this Women’s World Cup is somewhat of a miracle: after all women’s national team funding was cut by the Jamaican Football Federation in 2010, the team went more than three years without a match twice over the following decade, meaning Jamaica was without a FIFA ranking.
With no funding or competitive fixtures, Cadella Marley – daughter of the late reggae genius Bob Marley – raised funds for the team in an effort to see them compete at the 2015 tournament. Although the team wasn’t successful in qualifying for Canada, Marley and coach Menzies had laid the foundations for what would eventually become their first World Cup appearance.
While it’s no secret that this will be the first meeting between the two nations at senior international level, the Matildas’ match against Jamaica will be just the second time the side has ever faced Caribbean opposition, having dispatched Haiti 4-0 in a 2012 friendly. The side is no stranger to Jamaica’s confederation colleagues however: over 55 games against CONCACAF teams, the Matildas have a 17-6-32 record, with 25 of those losses coming against heavyweights the United States.
Players to Watch
It’s no overstatement to say that Jamaica’s baby-faced goalkeeper has been by far their busiest player throughout the tournament. At just 19, Schneider has had a World Cup to remember, saving a penalty from Brazilian winger Andressa Alves in Jamaica’s first match, as well as making a number of crucial saves against both the Canarinhas and Italy.
Jamaica keeper Sydney Schneider didn't start playing in goal until 14 or 15. And even then she wasn't really into it. Now she's saving penalties against Brazil at the #FIFAWWC at 19 years old. https://t.co/Nzfyo8CvN9 pic.twitter.com/dvPUM0ceTh
— Brooks Peck (@BrooksDT) June 9, 2019
Despite conceding eight goals across the first two matches, the University of North Carolina Wilmington-based stopper has been hugely impressive so far this tournament – but she’ll have to be at the peak of her powers if the Reggae Girlz are to get a result against the Matildas.
Although she has seen limited minutes off the bench at this tournament, Matildas winger Raso will be raring and ready to torch past opposing defenders if given the opportunity against Jamaica. Having only just returned to the national team set-up after breaking her back at the end of the last NWSL season, Raso has made one of the most incredible recoveries in recent sporting memory, featuring for both Brisbane and Portland in their respective competitions this season.
Known for her defensive endeavour as much as her electric pace, the supremely-talented Queenslander could loom as one of Ante Milicic’s key attacking weapons, with the Matildas looking to get behind the Jamaican wing-backs as successfully as they did against Brazil.
— Matildas (@TheMatildas) June 17, 2019
Opened just over 10 years ago, Grenoble’s Stade des Alpes is one of few stadia at this Women’s World Cup which serves as a multi-use venue, being home to both Ligue 2 football club Grenoble Foot 38 and recently relegated rugby union club FC Grenoble. Just a stone’s throw away from the Isère river in Parc Paul Mistral, the stadium sits next to the indoor Palais des Sports and across the park from the temporary Olympic Stadium, used in 1968 for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.
The new stadium is also one of the most efficient being used at the tournament, with its glass and steel structure covered in solar panels, helping to ease its energy use. Groundskeepers also employ a number of Harris hawks throughout the year, which roost around the stadium as a deterrent to the crows which call the area home.
Jamaica vs Australia
Date: Tuesday 18 June
Venue: Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
Kick-off: 9:00pm (local); Wednesday 5:00am (AEST)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on SBS and Optus Sport