Canada expects more attacking challenge from Jamaica at CONCACAF W Championship

·4 min read

After facing packed defences against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama and Costa Rica in the group stage, Canada expects a more attacking challenge from Jamaica on Thursday in the semifinal of the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico.

The Reggae Girlz attack is led by captain/striker Khadija (Bunny) Shaw, who plays her club football for Manchester City. Shaw is tied with Canada's Julia Grosso for the tournament lead in goals with three.

"And it's not just Bunny Shaw," Canada coach Bev Priestman said of the Jamaica offence. "There are players that run off Bunny and feed off her strengths. The good news is some of our players know her well, have dealt with her well. But she is a threat and we have to show that respect, as we always do our opponent."

Canada has yet to concede a goal at the tournament.

Canadian midfielder Quinn, who goes by one name, says Jamaica offers "some unique threats … And so I think that they're going to be more of an attacking presence than teams that we faced previously in this tournament."

"That being said, I think that we can handle those threats," they added.

The top-ranked U.S. plays No. 37 Costa Rica in the earlier semifinal Thursday at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

By virtue of having finished 1-2 in Group B, sixth-ranked Olympic champion Canada and No. 51 Jamaica have already qualified for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Haiti and Panama, who placed third in their respective groups, move on to a World Cup intercontinental playoff.

Olympic qualification remains.

The tournament champion qualifies for both the 2024 Paris Olympics and the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, also scheduled for 2024. The runner-up and third-place teams will also meet in a CONCACAF Olympic play-in series, scheduled for September 2023, with the winner booking their ticket to Paris Olympics and Gold Cup.

The Canadians have had their way with the Reggae Girlz in the past, winning all eight previous meetings while outscoring them 57-1.

There was a goalfest the last time they met as Jordyn Huitema scored four goals and Janine Beckie added three more in a 9-0 Canada romp at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship in February 2020. Ten of the Canadian starters that day are on the current Canadian roster, with only retired goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe missing.

"I said this to the group the Jamaica we played in 2020 is definitely not the Jamaica we see now," said Priestman. "I think everyone can see that from the tournament. They're recruited a lot of (N) WSL players who play with top plays week-in week-out."

As such, the Jamaicans will be familiar to Priestman's players.

Canadian centre back Vanessa Gilles plays with Jamaican defender Allyson Swaby at Angel City FC while midfielder Desiree Scott is a teammate of Jamaican goalkeeper Sydney Schneider at the Kansas City Current.

Beckie played with Shaw at Man City before joining the Portland Thorns in April while centre back Shelina Zadorsky is a teammate of Jamaica goalkeeper Becky Spencer, a former England youth international who has conceded five goals in three matches at the tournament, with England's Tottenham.

Jamaica (2-1-0) finished runner-up to the U.S. in Group A, downing Mexico 1-0 and Haiti 4-0 while losing 5-0 to the top-ranked Americans.

Canada won Group B, blanking Trinidad 6-0, Panama 1-0 and Costa Rica 2-0.

The Jamaican lead-up to the tournament was not ideal with Lorne Donaldson taking over from interim head coach Vin Blaine, who resigned from the post after players reportedly asked for his dismissal.

The team has received support from the Bob and Rita Marley Foundations. The official anthem of the CONCACAF W Championship is "Lions” by Skip Marley featuring Cedella Marley.

"It feels like a taste of home. It feels like they're playing our song every time we walk into the stadium," said American-born Jamaica forward Kayla McCoy.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 13, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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