The gap in international women’s football is closing, Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer says, after her Jamaica side held France to a goalless draw at the World Cup.
At only their second World Cup and having lost all three previous games in 2019, the Reggae Girlz pulled off the surprise of the tournament so far by holding the fifth-ranked French 0-0 in Sydney on Sunday.
It came on the back of debutants Haiti only narrowly losing 1-0 to European champions England, while world number three Sweden needed a 90th-minute winner to squeeze past South Africa.
Even the United States, long the sport’s dominant force, were made to work hard by Vietnam for a 3-0 win to open their bid for a third consecutive title.
In contrast, the Americans smashed Thailand 13-0 in their opening match four years ago.
So far only Zambia have been well beaten at this tournament, losing 5-0 to Japan.
“As you’ve seen from the other group games, results are getting closer,” Spencer, who was key to helping Jamaica hold a France side ranked 38 places above them, told reporters.
“The gap between nations is narrowing and that’s exactly what this sport needs to produce great tournaments. Look at the England-Haiti game. There was nothing between them.”
Teammate Chantelle Swaby added: “The gaps are closing, that much is certain. As the final whistle went, I heard my sister (Allyson Swaby) say, ‘The world rankings? What rankings?!'”
France and Paris Saint-Germain forward Kadidiatou Diani agreed, telling reporters: “There are no small teams.”
FIFA has expanded the tournament, being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, to 32 teams from 24 in France four years ago, allowing supposedly weaker sides greater opportunity to qualify.
It also potentially opened the door to some one-sided matches, but instead Jamaica and Haiti, at least, grabbed their chance to show they can hold their own.
The Jamaica squad in Australia is drawn largely from European and North American-based players now, and they have been helped in recent years financially by the efforts of Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella.
Drew Spence, who was born in London and played a couple of times for England before switching allegiance to Jamaica, said the team always believed they could spring a surprise.
“I think a lot of people didn’t even think we were going to make it to the World Cup because we had a tough group in the CONCACAF qualifiers, and now we have another tough group here,” the Tottenham midfielder said.
“We don’t mind people writing us off though, it just motivates us.”
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