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Reggae Girlz; High hopes for a promising team

Jamaica were, until February, the only Caribbean team to qualify for a Women's World Cup. Haiti's victory in the playoffs changed that, but the Reggae Girlz aren't satisfied with simply qualifying for the tournament. Under manager Lorne Donaldson, Jamaica are aiming to cause an upset and reach the knockout stages for the first time.

Of Jamaica's 23-player squad for the tournament, only ten played in France four years ago, many of those defenders. Plenty of US and UK-born players have joined the squad, with five England-born players called up by Donaldson.

Perhaps more excitingly, the core of the team which finished third in the CONCACAF Championship is an up-and-coming young group. Liya Brooks (19), Solai Washington (18), Peyton McNamara (22) and Kameron Simmonds (19) will all make their World Cup debuts in Australia this Summer.

Donaldson, a Jamaican himself, has proudly built this team to compete. Jamaica have no intention of showing up just for fun, despite being drawn into a very difficult group.

The Reggae Girlz find themselves in one of the most difficult groups at the tournament. As well as taking on Panama, Jamaica also face 2019 hosts France and South American champions Brazil.

Had they been drawn into any other group, Jamaica would've been targeting a knockout stage spot and that mentality won't change even in a group as tough as Group F.

Jamaica are, perhaps unsurprisingly, a very fast team. Their athletic heritage runs through the blood of the women's team. Tournament matches often lack game speed, so this could be a devastating weapon for Donaldson's side. Washington and Simmonds in particular have been especially dangerous off the bench, dragging tired full-backs around with stunning speed.

As well as the impressive pace, Jamaica also boast one of the best strikers in the women's game, Manchester City's Kadija Shaw.

Between qualifying matches for the CONCACAF Championship and the tournament itself, Jamaica scored 30 times; Shaw scored 12 of those goals. Her form for club and country in the past year has been electrifying, something she'll be looking to continue down under this Summer.

Whilst she isn't as quick as the wingers who join her in the Jamaican attack, she is a very good target striker, and if she gets the ball anywhere in the penalty area, she is a very big threat, even to the likes of France and Brazil. She has scored 50 times for Manchester City already.

Aside from football, there had been concerns in the last two months that the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) wasn't properly supporting their women's team. Shaw, along with several other players, was reportedly unhappy with the "severe disorganisation" of the JFF.

Other issues such as nutrition, communication and training facilities were brought up as areas for concern, especially so close to a major tournament. The JFF president Michael Ricketts said the players' concerns were being taken "seriously," and discussions have continued in the build-up to the tournament. Nevertheless, the Jamaican players have called for "immediate and systemic" change in an open letter released last month.

For better or worse however, these issues seem to have been placed on the back burner for now. This might sound as though the JFF are simply ignoring their players, but it may also be that the players are satisfied with the willingness of the federation to hold discussions. Either way, both sides seem to be handling the situation maturely to work towards a solution.

Besides, there are far more important things to focus on. Jamaica begin their second-consecutive World Cup campaign on Sunday when they take on France. The disputes with the federation cannot and will not overshadow what is an extremely exciting time for the Reggae Girlz.

This is a young, promising squad with the potential to feature in several tournaments over the coming years. But that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous now. So often in football players and team who are regarded as "ones for the future" are overlooked in the present. That hint of underestimation might be enough for Jamaica to do something very special this Summer.

With a defence which has largely been the same for the last four years and an exciting crop of attacking talent, this Jamaican team absolutely has it in them to cause an upset at this World Cup under Lorne Donaldson.

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