Reggae Girlz confident ahead of Panama face off this Sunday

Kingston, Jamaica; Dubbed a grudge match of monumental proportions, the Reggae Girlz battle Panama at the National Stadium in Kingston on Sunday.

In mid-October 2018, the Reggae Girlz defeated Panama 4-2 on penalties at the Toyota Stadium in Texas to claim third place in the CONCACAF Women’s Championships, and a spot in their very first FIFA Women’s World Cup in France that starts in less than a month.

Panama arrive in Jamaica hoping to hand the Jamaican women their first defeat since their loss to the USA at the championships and gain a measure of revenge for denying them automatic World Cup qualification.

However, that objective might prove to be a bigger challenge than they could possibly imagine because the Reggae Girlz have gone through an evolution since last October. Galvanized by two hard fought victories over Chile between late February and early March, and a confidence-building trip to South Africa in April, Jamaica is a now a little tougher and armed with a little more self-belief.

According to defenders Toriana Patterson and Dominque Bond-Flasza, South Africa was more than just a match it was an awakening.

“To play in an environment like that, a tough environment, a full stadium, in an away stadium; that’s the kind of stuff we will be facing every single game (in the World Cup), to come out with a tie it was good for us,” said Patterson, who played in the 1-1 draw against Bayana Bayana.

“Sometimes, you have to leave home to be able to find yourself, to find the stuff of which you were made. According to Bond-Flasza, South Africa was that moment for several members of the squad. For me personally, that experience for me allowed the fact that we qualified for the World Cup to really set in for a lot of the girls,” she said.

Patterson went on to state “We played in a stadium that was a previous stadium for the men’s World Cup (2010) in South Africa. So having that kind of experience, it really makes you think, we are in the World Cup. This was awesome preparation for the World Cup because playing in an away stadium against an opponent that we wouldn’t normally face, on a trip far away from home, we were facing a lot of elements that we coped well with that gave us the confidence to kind of know that we can survive in that kind of environment.”

Head Coach of the Jamaica Senior Women’s Football Team, Hue Menzies expressed that South Africa exposed the deeply rooted connections between both countries, connections that the girls fully embraced.

“The South African Federation was unbelievable and the government was unbelievable. You saw the history of the bond with Jamaica and South Africa. Some of these girls weren’t even born yet but I remember Mandela coming here and you saw the reason why this was his first trip after prison,” he said.

“We saw that. We felt it. The vibes were good. The team bonded well.”

Patterson backed up her coach.

“It wasn’t just the federation; it was the people of South Africa. At the hotel, they were so accommodating. At the stadium when we came out to warm up they were cheering just as hard as they did for South Africa when they came out,” she said.

“It was my first time in Africa so to experience something like that, it was beautiful.”

The friendly between Jamaica and Panama happens on Sunday, May 19 at 6:00 pm at the National Stadium. It will be the Reggae Girlz farewell match before they head to the Women’s World Cup in France which runs from June 7 through to July 7. The Girlz will also play a practice game in the United States before another friendly international in Scotland before travelling to Grenoble, France.

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