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2023 Women's World Cup

The Big Story Day 14: Heartbreak for Brazil, joy for Jamaica and South Africa as knockout stage matches start to shape up

Noe Llamas / SPP

Day 14 of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup began with Sweden defeating Argentina and South Africa eking out a victory against Italy. The second set of matches saw France rise above Panama as well as a Brazil-Jamaica draw that resulted in Brazil’s elimination and Jamaica’s advancement to the knockout round for the first time.

Brazil 0, Jamaica 0

The Big Story: In only their second ever World Cup, Jamaica advances out of the group stages in a nil-nil draw against Brazil that knocks the South American giants out of the tournament in the group stag for the first time in well over a decade. Ultimately, Brazil knew they had to win this game while Jamaica knew they only had to earn a draw and so the greatest pressure was on Brazil and they just couldn’t break through.

The Big Moment: Of all the moments that happened in the match, the biggest moment is what happened after it finished. Cameras caught Khadija Shaw and Marta share a moment when Shaw, who has spoken about how much she looks up to the Brazilian legend, shared heartfelt words with Marta who in turn clearly returned the sentiment to the young Jamaican superstar. 

This may be Marta’s last World Cup, but it’s just the beginning for Shaw and this moment of shared love and respect between the two players is evocative of this new era of women’s soccer where historically smaller teams are now contending with the most storied nations. 

What it means: Heartbreak for Brazil as they just couldn’t do enough to break down the Jamaican defense and get out of the group stage. Passes were off and players just couldn’t find each other as Jamaica put forth an absolutely stifling defense. This is a monumental disappointment for the legendary South American side. To see Marta’s legacy end on the international stage in this fashion is heartbreaking, but there’s enough young talent on the team to feel like they could come back even stronger in 2027.

For Jamaica, this is a tournament of dreams. Four years ago, they earned their first World Cup berth ever but lost all three group stage games. Fast forward to 2023 and they not only won their first World Cup match on Saturday, they also became the very first Caribbean team and only third CONCACAF team to advance out of the group stage. And they haven’t conceded a single goal in the tournament yet! Today’s clean sheet comes thanks to a compact Jamaican defense and absolute brilliance on behalf of keeper Rebecca Spencer who stifled every near-chance Brazil sent her way. Brazil managed a few late chances, including a set piece right outside the box at the end of regulation time and a corner that produced a scramble in the box in stoppage time, but Spencer was more than capable of handling anything that came her way.

To advance beyond the Round of 16, Jamaica will need to do more than frustrate teams and keep them out. They’ll need to stay just as defensively solid while also kickstarting their offense. Luckily, Shaw is dangerous enough that they have an ever-present danger who can strike at any time. In the 82nd minute, Shaw made a solo run and beat two defenders and almost took all three points for Jamaica. This was one of their only solid chances, but it showed just how much Shaw can punish teams in the transition if given half a chance. And if opponents are focused on containing Shaw, they might leave an opening for another attacker like Cheyna Matthews or Jody Brown. 

It’s easy to say that it’ll be tough for Jamaica to advance beyond the Round of 16, but they’ve already shown they’re more than capable of major upsets. They’ve proven themselves equal to any other team in the tournament and woe to any opponent that underestimates them moving forward. 

— Bekki Morgan

South Africa 3, Italy 2

The Big Story: South Africa punched their ticket to the knockout round with their first World Cup win, and the team’s first trip to the Round of 16 in a high-scoring matchup against Italy. 

The Big Moment: Once again taking advantage of their speed in transition, a cross finds South Africa’s Hildah Magaia who slid the ball across to an unmarked Thembi Kgatlana who pokes the ball through Italian defenders to take the lead late. 

What it means: Heading into the match Italy could secure their place in the knockout round with either a win or a tie and an Argentine loss or tie, where South Africa could only advance with a win. In the 10th minute, South Africa’s Karabo Dhlamini fouled Italy’s Chiara Beccari at the edge of the box, VAR confirmed that the foul occurred inside of the box, and Arianna Caruso slotted the PK home to give Italy an early 1-0 lead. 

After conceding an own goal on a backpass to the goalkeeper, something switched for Italy. Considering before the equalizer Italy’s sole shot had been the penalty, they kicked into gear and started converting their possession into actual chances. Granted, they weren’t able to really challenge the South African goalkeeper Kaylin Swart for the rest of the first half, but it was a move in the right direction. The Banyana Banyana had a few dangerous chances come out of transition, but were not able to get anything on frame. 

South Africa came out of the locker room at halftime on the front foot, being led on fastbreak counters by Racing Louisville forward Thembi Kgatlana who danced around Italian defenders with ease getting into the box. Italian defender Elena Linari made some great stops to slow the Banyana Banyana attacks but in the 67th minute an attack again led by Kgatlana ended with a perfectly weighted pass to Hildah Magaia who found the netting and the lead for South Africa.  That South African goal really was the spark for Italy to come back and equalize in the 78th minute off a set piece, with Caruso getting her second on the night. 

The late night chaos was not done yet, South Africa would go on to take the lead in stoppage time. With the Banyana Banyana win and Sweden’s win, South Africa will take the second spot in Group G, advancing to the Round of 16 and facing off against the Netherlands this weekend. Italy–now eliminated—will be thinking about that first half own goal, and what could have been.

— Taylor Vincent

France 6, Panama 3

The Big Story: Although Panama got on the board first, Wednesday night’s match between France and Panama was France’s to win. Going down early did not stop Les Bleus from dominating the debutant Canaleras of Panama, ending the game with a 6-3 win and clinching their spot in the knockout round. 

The Big Moment: Panama’s Marta Cox completely capitalized on an early free kick opportunity, sending a rocket from a distance that found its way past France’s goalkeeper Peyraud-Maginin and into the top corner. At 1:07, Cox’s goal was the fastest of the 2023 Women’s World Cup so far. 

What it Means: In Wednesday night’s match, Les Bleus ultimately did what was expected of them – win decisively and qualify for the knockout stage – but it was a more fun, and even slightly more competitive, match than many may have expected. 

Entering the match, France had all but clinched the top spot in Group F, while Panama had no path forward and played only to finish out its group stage games. But Panama’s early lead, and additional two goals in the second half, not only provided for a vibrant and entertaining game, but also demonstrated the grit, tenacity, and excitement that this debutant team can stir up. 

Panama got on the board early, and it took France a little while to move the game’s momentum in its favor, but by the tenth-or-so minute, Les Bleus started to put attacking moves together and control the match. A brace from Kadidiatou Diani (ultimately a hat trick by the end of the match) contributed to France’s 4-1 lead that it exited with at the end of the first half. Both Panama and France got on the board in the second half, to finish out the game with a 6-3 result in Les Bleus’s favor. 

France is a better team than Panama; however, the final score and the details of the match demonstrate real competitive potential from the Central American debutants. Two of France’s five totals came from penalties – results of handballs from Panamians – meaning the score was 4-3 France if one controls for flukey mistakes. France certainly out-controlled and out-shot Panama throughout the match, but for Panama to still make an impact knowing it had no path forward was an honorable thing. And in this case, even though they are going home, Las Canaleras still ended up with the goal of the tournament. France, the winner of Group F, next plays on August 8th against the second place winner of Group H. 

— Julie Schreiber

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