Jamaica must put rows with their federation behind them and get star striker Khadija Shaw firing if they are to win a match at the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
The disputes, which became very public, emerged after frustration over a lack of friendly games in the build-up to the tournament that begins next week in Australia and New Zealand.
The team did though go to a training camp in Amsterdam as they prepare for their second straight World Cup appearance and have received some late assistance from corporate backers.
The Reggae Girlz made their tournament debut in France four years ago and, placed in a tough group, returned home after three defeats.
The losses to Brazil, Italy and Australia, all with longer histories in the women’s game and greater resources, were no disgrace and there are signs that the Caribbean team could do better this time despite the turbulence.
Jamaica face Brazil, France and CONCACAF rivals Panama in another demanding World Cup group.
Much of the inspiration for the optimism has been generated by Shaw, who was voted player of the year in the CONCACAF region having struck 55 goals in 38 appearances for her country.
The biggest star to emerge from the women’s game in the Caribbean, Shaw plays in England’s Women’s Super League and has scored 31 goals in 30 games in all competitions for Manchester City.
“I’m not surprised she’s doing what she is doing and she still has so many levels to go to, which is quite frightening to be honest,” said her City team-mate, the England defender Alex Greenwood.
“I think she can be the best in the world if she wants to be.”
The Jamaica squad is drawn from European and North American-based players. Midfielder Drew Spence at Tottenham Hotspur, Chantelle Swaby in France with Fleury and forward Jody Brown with Florida State Seminoles are others to watch.
It has been a long struggle for the Jamaican women to get the resources they need to compete and for many years the team has been helped financially by the efforts of Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella.
But hopes that reaching back-to-back World Cups would bring a new era have been in vain and the build-up to the World Cup was far from smooth.
The frustrated players, who were also upset at late payment of match fees, released a statement last month urging a change in approach from their federation.
“In recent months, due to extreme disorganisation of camp logistics, we have missed several official FIFA friendly matches. This will undoubtedly impact our preparations for Australia,” they wrote.
The last game the team played was a friendly match against English second-tier club side Sheffield United in Leicester in April. Other fixtures fell through.
They will however face Morocco in Australia on Sunday in a warm-up game before group action begins, having travelled to the host nation after the camp in the Netherlands.
“The camp was good. I wish we had a game, which would have been the true test, but it was good nonetheless. The players worked hard and they seem very focused, but we’re not there yet,” coach Lorne Donaldson told Sportsmax television.
“We are not going to come here to the World Cup to lay down, we are going to push to get some success.
“We are planning to get out of the group, whichever way we have to get it done, we intend to get it done.”