The 2023 Women’s World Cup has so far been full of shocks, and there have been few more dramatic than Brazil’s exit from the tournament at the group stage, with plucky underdogs Jamaica going through in their stead. A 0-0 draw between the two sides in Melbourne spelled the end of Brazil’s World Cup campaign, and the beginning of a fairytale journey for Jamaica.
It was a surprisingly early exit for a Brazil side considered as outside favourites in the Women’s World Cup odds in the lead-up to the tournament. There were plenty of reasons for Brazil’s fans to be optimistic about their team’s chances, not least a 2-1 friendly win over Germany back in April, along with a commanding 4-0 victory over Chile in their only World Cup warm-up match.
That good form was carried into the opening game of the tournament, where Brazil duly dispatched Panama with another 4-0 hammering. Ary Borges was the star of the show, scoring a hat-trick to delight the crowd at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide, while Bia Zaneratto grabbed the other goal in the demolition.
It was the perfect start to Brazil’s campaign, and exactly what they needed ahead of their tricky second game against France. The European side have been quarter-finalists in each of the last two Women’s World Cups, and reached the semi-finals of the competition back in 2011 on home soil. The match represented a clash of two of world football’s heavyweights.
It was France who claimed the spoils in Brisbane after a hard-fought tussle. Veteran striker Eugénie Le Sommer gave France the lead after 17 minutes, before Brazil fought hard to force an equaliser just before the hour mark, Debinha finding the net to set up an entertaining final 30 minutes.
Unfortunately for Brazil, France would find the winner, with experienced captain Wendie Renard popping up with the all-important goal 10 minutes from time. Brazil had fallen to defeat, but with a winnable final game against Jamaica still to come, there were surely plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a safe passage to the knockout phase.
But Jamaica had already proven that they were not there to simply make up the numbers. A 0-0 draw with France in their opening game was evidence of their defensive resilience, and they followed that up with a precious 1-0 win over Panama. There was every reason for the Caribbean outfit to be confident as they prepared to take on Brazil.
The match in Melbourne followed the pattern most had expected. Brazil had the majority of possession, and looked the more likely team to score throughout, but they just couldn’t find that killer instinct in front of goal. Even with talismanic figure Marta up front, Brazil could not make the breakthrough, and after 90 frustrating minutes, their World Cup dream was over.
Jamaica, meanwhile, were left to celebrate an astonishing achievement. They had qualified for the knockout stage unbeaten and without conceding a single goal. A masterclass in dogged defending had given them a shot at the big time, and Brazil were simply left to lick their wounds.