2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Preview: Jamaica

Khadija Shaw #11, Lauren Silver #2, Deneisha Blackwood #14, Allyson Swaby #17 and Marlo Sweatman #9 of Jamaica celebrate a goal against Panama during the CONCACAF Women's Championship third place match at Toyota Stadium on October 17, 2018 in Frisco, Texas.
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

The Jamaican Women’s National Team will make history when they enter the 2019 Women’s World Cup as the first Caribbean representative in the tournament. Their world rank of 53 doesn’t tell the entire story of a team that made it through a grueling CONCACAF qualification process. They suffered only two losses with 14 goals conceded before defeating Panama, in a dramatic penalty shootout that punched their ticket for the tournament, as previously covered by The Guardian. The qualification process saw the rise of striker Khadija Shaw, who tallied 19 goals en route to World Cup qualification.

The squad is a unique achievement by manager Hue Menzies, who built the team by tapping into the Jamaican diaspora in the United States and the United Kingdom, discovering talent that was flying under the radar of each country’s respective national teams and taking advantage of their Jamaican roots. The team operates in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, using their speed to break teams down through the flanks. While they are far from favorites in their group, having a striker as clinical as Shaw will ensure that Jamaica will be a threat against whomever they face.

The 22-year-old Shaw possesses a unique blend of physicality and speed, which has already placed her among the most talented women’s players Jamaica has produced. She is already the nation’s leader in goals, with 26 in 30 senior appearances, which comes after a storied underage career that saw her representing the U-15, U-17 and U-20 teams all at the same time from the age of 14.

Khadija Shaw of Jamaica celebrates with teammates after scoring her team's second goal early in the second half during the Women's International Friendly between Scotland and Jamaica at Hampden Park on May 28, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.
  Mark Runnacles / Getty Images

Shaw will be aided in the attack by Trudi Carter’s return from injury, strengthening their preferred speedy counter-attacking style that is bolstered by a solid defense. While the backline is set up to absorb pressure against the higher-ranked opponents — led by captain Konya Plummer and Allyson Swaby — the defense is still capable of playing through the middle and converting to a pressing style.

While it is undeniably clear that the Jamaican women are the biggest underdogs in France, the team possesses the work ethic to continue what is already an incredible Cinderella story. They are likely to pick up support from the neutrals due to the effort evident in their style of play. While making it to the Round of 16 might be a step too far in a group with Brazil, Australia, and Italy, if either of those teams has any flatness when they face the Jamaican women, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see them pull off an upset.

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