Preparation made Girlz ready for penalties

December 18, 2018
Dominique Bond-Flasza (16), who scored the winning penalty kick, celebrates with goalkeeper Nicole McClure (13), who made two saves as Jamaica defeated Panama 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out at the Concacaf Women's Championships third-place play-off in Frisco, Texas, to book a spot in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.
Reggae Girlz Goalkeeper Nicole McClure.

The goalkeeper swap moments before the end of extra time in the Reggae Girlz third-place match against Panama at the CONCACAF Women's Championships was in the making for weeks.

Coach Hue Menzies substituted Sydney Schneider, who was outstanding in the tournament, for reserve goalkeeper Nicole McClure, who was making her fourth appearance for the Reggae Girlz, much to the surprise of the thousands of Jamaicans who were watching at home.

But, according to McClure, the decision was made weeks before on the training ground after practising a series of penalties.

"We have been doing it (penalty saves) in training, and the day before the game we prepared for the penalties again and I did really wel, and I guess they (coaching staff) felt comfortable if it came down to penalties to put me in," McClure told STAR Sports.

"Halfway through extra time, the coaching staff told me to start getting ready, so I was warming up for 15 minutes, and as soon as Panama equalised, they checked me in."

McClure stopped two of the penalties to win the penalty shootout 4-2 and finalised the Reggae Girlz qualification to their first ever FIFA Women's World Cup.

"When I saved the first one, I told myself to calm down, and then I said to myself that I need to save the next one and we win," she explained.

"After I saved the last penalty, I don't even know how to describe what happened.

It was an out-of-body experience. I didn't even realise what was going on until my teammates jumped on me."

The Reggae Girlz created history when they finished third in the Concacaf Women's Championships to secure one of three automatic spots to play on women's football greatest stage.

Not only was the qualification the first in Jamaica's history, but also the first time a women's team from the Caribbean was qualifying for a FIFA tournament.

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