After winning their opening match at the World Cup, Italy will be looking to continue a surprisingly good start when they take on Jamaica at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims. The Azzurre beat Australia 2-1 in their first fixture while their next opponent lost 3-0 to Brazil, but know all about dealing with adversity.
Jamaica had to navigate a notoriously tough path through the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, eventually securing a place in France after beating Panama on penalties to reach the tournament for the first time in their history.
Back in 2010, their national football federation cut funding for the women’s team and completely disbanded it, only for Cedella Marley to pick up the baton four years later. She became the team’s ambassador and funded the team through her father’s charity, the Bob Marley Foundation.
“It wasn’t because they weren’t good,” she told the Telegraph this week. “It was because they had no funds. For the boys yes but not for the girls. They didn’t have the right sports bras, the right nutrition… I was being told to send down Granola bars, you know? It wasn’t fun. I got angrier and angrier.”
Her dedication is now paying dividends, as is the work of Head Coach Hue Menzies. The team relies heavily on Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw and the 5’11” forward is rapidly becoming the face of the “Reggae Girlz.” Still only 22 years old, she has weighed in with 26 goals in her 30 international appearances and will be looking to add to that record at every opportunity during her first major tournament.
Standing in their way of course is a resilient Italy side, buoyed by their injury time victory over Australia last time out. Having contributed three goals and six assists in eight qualifying appearances, forward Barbara Bonansea was once again a vital player for the Azzurre, grabbing both goals and her manager was clearly delighted.
“It’s a beautiful feeling. These are women with a lot of technical qualities and they play really well,” Italy boss Milena Bertolini told reporters shortly after the final whistle. “When it comes to teamwork, we are truly the strongest team at this tournament and that’s what will make the difference – team spirit. It made the difference today. We suffered a lot, but the Italian team spirit came through.”
She will hope it does so again and it is hard to imagine Jamaica getting a positive result against such a well-drilled and highly talented side. However, the team from the Caribbean had a couple of clear-cut chances in their defeat against Brazil, so Italy would be wise to not dismiss their attacking threat. The first goal in this game will be vital.
Jamaica vs Italy: Probable Lineups
Jamaica (4-3-3): Schneider; Bond-Flasza, Swaby, Plummer, Blackwood; Sweatman, Solaun, Swaby; Matthews, Shaw, Carter.
Italy (4-3-1-2): Giuliani; Bergamaschi, Gama, Linari, Guagni; Galli, Giugliano, Cernola; Girelli; Mauro, Bonansea.