By Justin Chadwick
Jamaica have kept their hopes of progressing to the round of 16 alive after beating Panama 1-0 to secure their maiden Women’s World Cup win.
Captain Allyson Swaby’s 56th-minute header was enough to secure all three points for Jamaica in front of 15,987 fans at Perth Rectangular Stadium on Saturday night.
Kayla McKenna of Jamaica takes on Yenith Bailey of Panama during the FIFA Women’s World Cup match between Panama and Jamaica at Perth Rectangular Stadium on July 29.Credit: Getty Images
Not only did it mark world No.51 Jamaica’s first win at a Women’s World Cup, but it moved them into second spot in Group F on four points, equal with leaders France.
Jamaica face world No.9 Brazil in their final group match, needing just a draw to make it through to the knockout stages.
“Well, if you asked me before the World Cup that we have one game to decide our fate – the last game – I would have said yes, give it to us,” Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said.
“I think it’s wonderful that we still have a chance of doing something. This one was a dogfight, that one is going to also be another dog fight.”
Donaldson was wary about playing for a draw against Brazil.
“It’s hard to sit back on a team like Brazil,” he said.
“Ninety per cent (of Jamaicans) are Brazilian fans.
“We wear the same colours. We have a lot of respect for Brazil. People in Jamaica, most of us get along friendship wise, football and life.
“Most Jamaicans think they’re Brazilians when it comes to football.
“They have a lot of flair. They play one way and they’re going to play that way. We have to try to come out and do something special to get something out of the game.”
Panama, who lost 4-0 to Brazil in their opener, are now officially no hope of progressing, meaning they will be fighting for pride in their clash with world No.3 France.
“All of those tears that fell on the field, we are going to convert them into promises to return in four years and continue fighting,” Panama coach Ignacio Quintana said.
“There are still three points ahead of us, and we are going to keep fighting as if we can still qualify.
“We aren’t going to gift anything.”
Jamaica entered Saturday’s match without star Manchester City striker Khadija Shaw, who was sent off in her side’s gutsy 0-0 draw with France.
Shaw’s absence was keenly felt in the first half, with Jamaica dominating play and creating plenty of attacking forays but lacking the polish to finish them off.
The second half was played at frenetic pace as Panama finally found their attacking groove.
But it was Jamaica who were celebrating in the 56th minute after captain Swaby sent her header into the bottom corner of the net.
Jamaica were awarded a penalty for handball in stoppage time, but it was reversed after a VAR check.
It mattered little, with Jamaica holding firm at the death to secure the win.