Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz have been placed in a group with Brazil, Italy and Australia. All three nations are rated among the best in the world, according to the most recent ranking issued by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, late last month.
Australia maintained its sixth spot from the last ranking, same as Brazil at 10th. Italy moved up one place to 15th.
Jamaica retained its previous ranking, but is mired in the 53rd spot.
However, soccer observers here appeared neither surprised nor worried by FIFA’s latest rankings. For many, Jamaica’s World Cup qualification was a massive accomplishment. The testing upcoming schedule of matches, starting early June, they claim, is to be expected at the highest level.
“Even before the new rankings, I knew it was incredibly tough for us,” said Neville “Bertis” Bell, a former Jamaica youth national coach. “The group has top quality teams. I can live with whatever happens.”
Jamaican teams are known for their athleticism. However, the Girlz could be hurt by more tactically seasoned opponents at the World Cup. Still, belief here is the Girlz have enough overseas-based players not to be overwhelmed by the global stage.
“On the day I don’t think ranking matters,” said Roy Simpson, who manages Jamaica’s senior men’s team. “If we prepare well and show up on the day, it’s who wants it more.”
Of more concern for the Girlz is how a recent contract dispute between the Jamaica Football Federation and the coaches has affected the team.Hopefully, Bell said, those problems will be ironed out in time. Added warm-up games for Jamaica at home, in Africa and Europe should also help.
“I’m hoping it’s a good sign for the future,” Bell said.