Jamaica earn last 16 spot in FIFA Women’s World Cup as Brazil sent home

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Jamaica earn last 16 spot in FIFA Women’s World Cup as Brazil sent home

Jamaica qualified for the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup for the first time as Brazil went out of the competition in disappointing fashion.

It was a cagey encounter in Melbourne and Jamaica put in a stubborn defensive display to ensure their impressive tournament still has another chapter.

But Brazil, who recalled striker Marta to the starting XI, could not find the goal they needed and failed to progress for the first time in 28 years.

Marta, 37, is the all-time leading scorer in men’s or women’s World Cups with 17 goals but will not feature again, with her sixth tournament in Australia coming to an end having made three group-stage appearances.

After this goalless stalemate, Jamaica could face Colombia or Germany in the last 16, while France go through as Group F winners following their victory over Panama in the other match.

Jamaica put themselves in a strong position when they held group favourites France to a goalless draw and followed it with a crucial 1-0 win over Panama without star striker Khadija Shaw, who was suspended after being sent off in their opening match.

Manchester City’s Shaw returned to the side in Melbourne, adding much-needed threat for Jamaica on the counter-attack.

Former Arsenal centre-back Rafaelle Souza largely kept Shaw at bay, though the Jamaican’s presence alone caused problems and she almost scored with 10 minutes remaining, firing over the bar on the break.

That was Jamaica’s only real chance as Brazil built pressure and searched endlessly for the goal they needed to take them through to the knockout stage.

Marta, who went off to huge cheers after 80 minutes, had a few glimpses at goal, while Debinha, Luana and Tamires all drew saves from Jamaica goalkeeper Becky Spencer.

But Brazil were predictable and lacklustre, struggling to break down Jamaica’s well-organised defence and offering very little in a desperate fight to stay in Australia.

They almost found a golden touch in the third minute of second-half stoppage time when substitute Andressa pounced on a scramble in the box, but Spencer was again equal to it and Brazil’s substitutes fell to their knees in despair in the dugout.

It is a disappointing early exit for the South American champions who took their European counterparts England to a penalty shootout in the Women’s Finalissima at Wembley in April and had high hopes coming into the World Cup.

“There’s a lot of feelings of course,” said Brazil manager Pia Sundhage. “In the locker room there’s many sad players and coaches.

“At the end of the day I’m responsible for the result. Of course I’m not alone, but the way we have worked and have prepared is something I need to look back on and see if we could have done things differently.

“We put in a lot of work but at the end of the day it’s Jamaica [who progress]. It’s not a big distance between failure and success.”

Jamaica, meanwhile, have kept three clean sheets in the group stage and have proven they are more than a match for some of the world’s higher-ranked nations. There was an outpouring of emotion at full-time as the magnitude of their achievements became clear.

Their journey to Australia and New Zealand was marred by a battle with their own federation – the Reggae Girlz wrote an open letter calling for “immediate and systematic change” – and their success will give them a greater voice.