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Bon voyage to the Girlz

HAPPY DAYS: Havana Solaun

HAVANA SOLAUN, a second-half substitute, slotted home Jamaica's inaugural FIFA Women's World Cup finals goal.

But Solaun's 49th-minute strike at the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble on Monday night was the Reggae Girlz' parting shot from the tournament.

The goal was scant reward as the Girlz surrendered 4-1 at the hands of Australia, whose red-hot striker Sam Kerr scored all four.

Before the encounter there was little chance that the Girlz, the lowest-ranked side to qualify for the finals in France, would pull off a shock and defeat Australia to progress in the competition.

The Girlz had meekly succumbed to Brazil (3-0) and Italy (5-0) in their previous group games, but had a shot at making the last 16 if they won comfortably.

Yet the Girlz were only given cold comfort by the organised Australians. Chicago Red Stars forward Kerr beat Chantelle Swaby at the near post to powerfully head home Emily Gielnik's pass for an 11th-minute lead.

The majority of spectators from then on enthusiastically cheered on the underdogs, which at times lifted Jamaica and helped keep them in the contest until the brink of half-time.

Kerr doubled the lead on 42 minutes, another header to convert Katrina Gorry's throughball.

This goal deflated the Girlz going into the interval, but they soon bounced back when Solaun slotted home just three minutes and 55 seconds after coming on as a half-time sub.

Midfielder Solaun, born in Florida but eligible to represent Jamaica through her mother, made no hesitation in front of goal.

The 26-year-old intercepted Khadija Shaw's threaded pass, and neatly took the ball around on-rushing keeper Lydia Williams to historically add her name to the scoresheet.

Forward Shaw, who signed professional terms with French giants Girondins de Bordeaux just before these World Cup finals, squandered a couple of clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities before Kerr put the result beyond doubt.

The Australian captain notched her hat-trick on 69 minutes, after the ball bounced off the thigh of Sashana Campbell.

And the Girlz were even more unfortunate when an error from shotstopper Nicole McClure gifted Kerr a simple 83rd-minute tap-in. McClure, who saved two spot-kicks in the penalty shootout success against Panama that booked Jamaica's World Cup finals berth, missed the ball with her attempt to clear a backpass. Kerr was swift to capitalise and grab a fourth goal.

Had Kerr not pounced to put away the loose ball, then Australia would not have qualified as one the two teams in the group after Brazil saw off Italy by a 1-0 margin.

Jamaica prop up the four-team group, so exit their first World Cup finals. But they learnt from their experience and will be building on their success to reach this stage in a bid to make it not just a one-off achievement like their male counterparts. The Reggae Boyz have only competed in one World Cup finals, at France in 1998.

There appears to be a French connection, but now it is 'bon voyage' to the Girlz.

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