Former Brazil and Barcelona player Dani Alves has been sentenced to four years and six months in prison for sexual assault by a Spanish court.

The 40-year-old former right-back was found guilty of assaulting a woman in a Barcelona nightclub on New Year’s Eve in 2022 and has been in custody since being arrested for the offence in January 2023.

Alves, who must also pay his victim 150,000 euros (£128,000) in compensation and their court costs, has the right to appeal against his sentence.

A statement from the Audiencia de Barcelona on Thursday read: “The Court of Barcelona has condemned footballer Dani Alves to four years and six months in prison for sexual assault.

“The victim must also receive 150,000 euros and have their legal costs paid.

“The sentence takes into consideration that it has been proven the victim did not consent and that there is evidence in addition to their testimony that proves the offence.”

Manchester City added the Club World Cup to last season’s treble with an emphatic 4-0 win over Brazilian side Fluminense in Jeddah on Friday.

Julian Alvarez struck twice, setting them on their way after just 40 seconds and wrapping up victory late on, while Phil Foden forced an own goal and grabbed the other himself.

It was manager Pep Guardiola’s fourth triumph in the competition but one that came at a cost as influential midfielder Rodri was forced off in the second half with an injury.

City, who were again without striker Erling Haaland due to a foot problem, now face an anxious wait over the Spaniard’s fitness ahead of the resumption of their Premier League title defence at Everton next Wednesday.

Rodri, who limped off after a challenge from Alexsander, has already missed four games through suspension this season and City have lost them all.

Yet for now City can celebrate their fifth trophy of 2023, having also claimed the European Super Cup in August.

They were far too strong for the ageing Copa Libertadores winners, who repeatedly invited pressure on to themselves.

City were gifted the perfect start when veteran former Real Madrid captain Marcelo – one of seven in the Fluminense starting line-up aged 33 or over – found Nathan Ake with an attempted crossfield pass from deep inside his own half.

Ake wasted no time as he thumped a long-range shot against a post and there was nothing goalkeeper Fabio could do as Alvarez crouched to make sure the rebound bounced in off his chest.

City did have a scare when Ederson gave the ball away and then brought down German Cano but were spared by an offside flag.

Apart from that, Fluminense rarely threatened and City doubled their lead when Rodri played in Foden and his ball across the box deflected off Nino and looped into the net.

Ederson was called upon to keep out a Jhon Arias header just before the break, but City almost claimed another when Jack Grealish tested Fabio from distance.

Fabio also produced a good double save to deny Foden and Bernardo Silva in quick succession early in the second half.

City’s third came as Rodri attempted to run off his injury, with Alvarez getting free down the left and crossing for Foden to slide in after 72 minutes.

Rodri was removed moments later, but Alvarez put the seal on success with a clean strike two minutes from time.

Formula One will again hold six sprint weekends in 2024 with discussions ongoing about potential tweaks to the format.

The sprint weekends will be at the returning Chinese Grand Prix followed by races in Miami, Austria, Austin, Brazil and Qatar.

A number of drivers and team principals, including Red Bull boss Christian Horner, have called for changes to the sprint format.

It is likely that qualifying for the sprint will return to being held on Friday ahead of the sprint race on Saturday, which will be followed by qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix.

Other options may be considered to shake up the format, with changes to rules over parc ferme conditions – where alterations to the car are prohibited – and even a move to reverse part of the grid order for the sprint among possible options.

F1 bosses are keen to retain the sprint and believe having meaningful action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of a grand prix weekend bring benefits for TV audiences and fans in attendance.

Stefano Domenicali, president and CEO of Formula One, said: “I am delighted to announce six exciting venues for next season’s F1 sprint events, including two new hosts China and Miami, both of which will be fantastic additions and provide great racing for all our fans at the race and watching at home.

“Since its creation in 2021, the sprint has been consistent in delivering increased audiences on TV, more on track entertainment for the fans at events and increased fan engagement on social and digital platforms, and we are looking forward to the exciting events next year.”

A decision on how the sprint format will look next season is likely to be made in January.

Speaking in November, Horner said: “I think it’s clear that the sprint needs to evolve a bit. I can understand the concept and it being action on all three days, which for the promoter and for the fans has an interest.

“But I think the sprints in some cases have been slightly underwhelming – there’s no pit stop, it tends to stay in grid order and it’s a little bit like getting a medal for a long run.

“I think there can be a little bit more racing introduced, but then you’ve got to look at the consequences of that, if you were to reverse the grid, if there were points involved etc, etc.”

World champions Argentina’s 1-0 win over Brazil was marred by crowd trouble at the Maracana Stadium.

Kick-off was delayed by half an hour in Rio de Janeiro after rival fans and police clashed, with both sets of players trying to calm the situation down before eventually returning to the dressing room before the game could commence.

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was filmed trying to climb the hoarding to stop a police officer wielding a baton before being pulled away by team-mates.

Once the order was restored, Nicolas Otamendi’s second-half header gave Argentina an historic World Cup qualifying victory, with Joelinton sent off for the hosts.

Lionel Messi said on Argentina’s X feed: “This group continues to achieve historic things. Although today was not the most important, it is something very nice.

“We needed this victory after the defeat against Uruguay.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game, similar to the one in the Copa America final. They pressed a lot, they went to look for us high up and it was difficult for us to have long possessions. These games are defined by details.”

It was Brazil’s first-ever home defeat in a World Cup qualifier and their third in a row after previous losses to Uruguay and Colombia, with their path to the 2026 World Cup looking decidedly shaky.

The hosts were the better side in the first half and could have taken the lead just before the break but Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli saw his shot cleared off the line by north London nemesis Cristian Romero.

Martinelli missed another key chance after the break, with Martinez denying him from close range.

The defending champions took a 63rd-minute lead when former Manchester City defender Otamendi headed home Giovani Lo Celso’s corner with their only effort on target of the night.

Newcastle’s Joelinton saw red in the last 10 minutes when he struck out at Rodrigo De Paul to compound a miserable night for the hosts, with the inquest to their poor form and the ugly scenes in the stadium set to rumble on.

Luis Diaz scored twice as Colombia stunned Brazil 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier, days after his father was released by kidnappers.

The Liverpool striker netted twice in four minutes late in the second half, watched by his father Luiz Manuel Diaz who was held for 12 days before his release last week.

Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli had put Brazil in front after just four minutes.

Colombia’s first win over Brazil for eight years lifts them into third in the South American qualifying table with Brazil, who suffered a second successive defeat in the competition, down to fifth.

On a night of surprises, goals from Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nunez saw Uruguay beat Argentina 2-0.

Lionel Messi struggled to impose himself, hitting the crossbar in the second half as Argentina’s 100% record since lifting the World Cup was ended.

Uruguay’s win lifts them to second in the table, two points behind Argentina.

Venezuela are in fourth after a goalless draw with Ecuador, Chile and Paraguay also drawing a blank while Bolivia won the battle of the bottom two with a 2-0 win over Peru.

Lando Norris saw off triple world champion Max Verstappen to take pole position for today’s sprint race in Brazil.

The British driver, 23, beat Verstappen to top spot by 0.061 seconds in Interlagos with Sergio Perez third.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton will line up from fourth and fifth respectively for Mercedes.

Norris believed he could have taken pole for tomorrow’s 71-lap main event, but for a McLaren strategy blunder in Friday’s rain-hit qualifying session.

However, the young Briton made amends by delivering the quickest time for today’s 24-lap dash to the chequered flag.

Norris, who is seeking his first win in Formula One, said: “It felt like one of the worst laps I have done so I am a little bit surprised to be on pole.

“But I feel like we have made up for yesterday. I have no idea how the sprint will go, but the pace has been good this weekend and the car has been quick.”

Perez was a tenth back from Norris, while Russell finished 0.235 sec behind, with Hamilton 0.318 sec adrift.

Yuki Tsunoda qualified sixth ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo.

Q1 ended early after Esteban Ocon crashed out following a collision with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Ocon was on a hot lap, but briefly lost control of his Alpine though the left-hander at Turn 3, and thumped into Alonso.

The Spaniard was off the racing line, affording space for Ocon, but the Frenchman clipped Alonso’s Aston Martin which sent him into the tyre barrier at Curva do Sol.

“F****** idiot, Fernando,” said Ocon after he sustained significant damage to the rear of his machine.

Alonso limped back to the pits with front suspension damage leaving his mechanics scrambling to get his machine ready for Q2.

A 28-minute delay followed as the barrier was repaired but Alonso was unable to continue. He will start 15th.

The double world champion’s team-mate Lance Stroll qualified an impressive third for Sunday’s grand prix. But the Canadian will line up three places from the back for today’s sprint which gets under way at 3:30pm local time (6:30 pm GMT).

Jamaica and Domincan Republic added medals to their tally on day three of athletics action at the Pan American (Pan Am) Games in Santiago, Chile on Monday.

For Jamaica, discus throwers Samantha Hall and Fedrick Dacres, both claimed bronze in their respective events, while Dominican Republic proved too good for rivals in the 4x400m mixed relay.

Hall, who competed at the World Athletics Championships in Hungary, claimed her first medal at the senior level, with a throw of 59.14m. She placed behind the Brazilian pair of Izabela Rodrigues, who won gold with a throw of 59.63m, and Andressa Oliveira (59.29m).

Another Jamaican Adrienne Adams was eighth in the event with a best mark of 55.55m.

On the men’s side, Dacres secured Jamaica's third bronze when he launched the instrument to a mark of 61.25m. Chile’s Lucas Nervi (63.39m), and Colombia’s Mauricio Alexander Ortega (61.86m), were first and second. Kai Chang, the other Jamaican in the event, was sixth at 59.96m.

Domincan Republic added a sixth gold medal to go with their four silver and 10 bronze, with victory in the 4X400m Mixed relay final. Their quartet, which included World Champion Marileidy Paulino, won in 3:16.05, ahead of Brazil (3:18.55) and United States (3:19.41).

Elsewhere on the track, Liranyi Arislayne Alonso of Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago's Reyare Mary Thomas, clocked identical times of 11.69s for second and third in semi-final one of the women’s 100m. Both, along with winner Cecilia Tamayo (11.66s) of Mexico, secured a spot in the final.

Guyana’s Keliza Smith (11.78s) and Jamaica’s Mickaell Moodie (11.86s), who also contested that semi-final, were sixth and seventh respectively.

Jasmine Abrams of Guyana won semi-final two in 11.60s, with Brazil’s Ana De Jesus (11.64s) and Cuba’s Yarima Garcia (11.65s), in second and third respectively.

On the men's side, Guyana’s Emanuel Archibald (10.35s) and Odaine McPherson (10.37s), produced contrasting performances in semi-final one, but did enough to secure their respective spots in the final. Archibald was third and McPherson, who advanced to the final as a non-automatic qualifier, was fourth.

They joined Jose Alnardo Gonzales (10.30s) of Dominican Republic, who won ahead of Brazil's Felipe Bardi (10.33s). Hakeem Huggins of St Kitts and Nevis was seventh in 10.54s.

Jamaica's Jevaughn Whyte and Samson Colebrooke of the Bahamas were fourth and seventh in semi-final two, clocking 10.52s and 10.62s, respectively, as both failed to make the final cut.

Cuba’s Shainer Rengifo was the lone Caribbean athlete to progress from semi-final three, which he won in 10.36s.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s Aliyah Abrams secured her spot in the women’s 400m final after she place second in semi-final one in 51.82s. Chile’s Martina Weil won the event in 51.47s, with Ecuador’s Nicole Caicedo (52.32s) third.

 

Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in history after sealing her sixth career world all-around title at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp.

The tournament marks the American’s return to major international competition after a two-year absence, and on Wednesday she led her team to a record seventh straight title.

Biles’ golden comeback continued in record-breaking style as she finished with a top score of 58.399, 1.633 points above Brazilian silver medallist Rebeca Andrade with compatriot Shilese Jones rounding out the top three.

Friday’s medal was Biles’ 34th at an Olympics or World Championship, the most achieved by a male or female gymnast in the history of the sport after surpassing the 33 achieved by Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo.

In a serendipitous twist, the 26-year-old’s historic gold came precisely 10 years – and in the exact same venue – as her first world all-around title in 2013.

Biles could still add more medals to her collection with the individual apparatus finals still to come on Saturday and Sunday – Biles has qualified for all four.

There was drama for Great Britain before the all-around competition even got under way.

Jessica Gadirova, the 2022 world floor champion, dropped out of the event at the last minute, British Gymnastics announcing the decision in a tweet which read: “Update. As a precautionary measure Jessica Gadirova will not be competing in tonight’s all-around World final, Alice Kinsella will now compete in her place for Great Britain.”

Kinsella ultimately finished seventh with a score of 54.032, while team-mate Ondine Achampong placed 13th in her first world all-around final.

Kinsella, the 2023 British national all-around champion, admitted the dramatic call-up came as a shock.

She told the BBC: “I only went [out] to do little bits and bobs like stretching, conditioning, and then I went off to get my foot rubbed, then my coach came over and was like, ‘Alice, you need to get your leotard on straight away.’

“I was a bit stressed, I didn’t really know what to do or say to anyone. I just ran to the toilet, shoved it on, and that was it really.”

 Eight-time Caribbean Cup champions Trinidad and Tobago have surged inside the top 100 on the FIFA World Rankings list for the first time in almost five years following recent wins over El Salvador and Curacao.

The Soca Warriors – in the latest list published Thursday – climbed four places up to 98th from 102, a spot they held in the last rankings in July. They were last inside the FIFA top 100 at 92nd in December 2018. Based on their world position, the twin island republic remains the fourth highest rated in Caribbean Football Union (CFU).

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz jumped two places up the FIFA list to 56th and remain number in CFU ahead of Haiti at 87th world ranked and Curacao (90th). Antigua and Barbuda complete the CFU’s top five at 137th.

In the only change to the CFU’s top 10, Guyana have climbed into 10th position with a three place move to 165th in the world, as Barbados – the result of Nations League losses to Montserrat and Nicaragua – slipped out of the top 10. The fell six places on the world list from 166th to 172nd.

World champions Argentina strengthened their grip at the summit of the world rankings. The Argentines, who dethroned Brazil at the top in April, defeated Ecuador and Bolivia in their 2026 World Cup qualifiers earlier this month to improve their status.

Despite losing to Germany in a friendly last week, France retained second place, followed by Brazil (third), England (fourth) and Belgium (fifth).

Neymar needs to lift the World Cup with Brazil to etch his name as a Selecao great, so says Mauro Silva, who referenced Lionel Messi's global success with Argentina.

Messi powered Lionel Scaloni's Argentina to their first World Cup triumph in 36 years after lifting the coveted Jules Rimet trophy at the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

Neymar and his Brazil team-mates were eliminated from that edition of the world's top international tournament in a quarter-final defeat to Croatia on penalties.

The Selecao forward equalled Pele's scoring record for Brazil in the Croatia loss, and subsequently broke the landmark with two goals against Bolivia in Friday's World Cup qualifier.

But former Brazil and Deportivo midfielder Silva believes Neymar must achieve glory in the United States and Canada at the 2028 World Cup to fully write his name into national folklore.

The 59-cap Brazil international Silva told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit: "Neymar is among the best. I would say among the five or 10 best in Brazil.

"There are very good footballers in there. Pele, there is Ronaldo, Romario, Bebeto – some very important people. But Neymar is undoubtedly among the best too.

"There is the expectation in Brazil that a player with Neymar's talent is capable of leading Brazil to a World Cup, just as happened with Messi and the Argentina team after so many years.

"Here in Brazil, people hope that a player with Neymar's talent can lead us to this important achievement.

"He is among the most important players in the history of Brazilian football, without a doubt, because of his numbers, for breaking Pele's record, for example.

"But he still has a lot to do.

"I hope he can achieve a World Cup for Brazil and this will undoubtedly consolidate him as one of the greats in the history of Brazilian football."

Since the World Cup Neymar has left Paris Saint-Germain, who he joined from Barcelona, to move to Al Hilal on a lucrative contract in Saudi Arabia.

While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have made similar transfers to the Saudi Pro League, Silva hopes Neymar can continue to play at his peak in what he feels is a less competitive competition.

Silva added: "It is a challenge because when you are in the best competitions, competing every day, every week with the best teams and players, the demands make you maintain a very high level of performance.

"Now as being in a competition of a level that is not so high, it is a challenge. But let's see what happens.

"Nor can it be said that he will not be able to maintain the level, but I am convinced that this will be a great challenge for Neymar.

"We are in 2023 and the World Cup is in 2026, so there are still three years ahead where despite his age, his years, [Neymar] is in a league that is not as competitive as the European leagues.

"So he will have to maintain this high level to lead Brazil to a conquest. Hopefully he will be able to maintain this level until 2026 at least."

Jamaica’s Rajindra Campbell is off to a dream start on debut, as he secured his spot in the men’s shot-put final on Saturday’s opening day of the World Athletic Championships in Budapest, Hungary.

Campbell, who earlier this year became the first Jamaican man to go beyond 22m when he launched the instrument to a national record of 22.22m, took his time to get going in Group A of qualifying, but eventually found his rhythm.

Though he missed the automatic qualifying mark of 21.40m, Campbell’s 20.83m on his third attempt, was good enough to make the final as it ranked him 10th across the two groups.

Prior to achieving the mark which placed him sixth in his group, the 27-year-old Campbell, opened with an underwhelming 19.83m and registered no mark on his second attempt.

Campbell rued a lack of warm up and the wet conditions for his slow start.

"I didn't get through the complete warm up, the rain poured so I didn't get to warm up around the back because there was lightning and all that, so I came out here and tried to force it. the ring was very slippery, so that caused a lot of downhill performance today, but as we progressed the ring got dryer and I could actually feel the grip and that is how the last one came together," the vibrant thrower shared.

While his national record ranked him fourth coming into the championships, Campbell remains grounded where his medal prospects are concerned.

"Honestly, I don't want to start getting into that right now because later on (the final is to come). So, the job is not done yet, for now I am holding it together, I want to get some food in my system, take a nap and then I will be back," he said.

"It is a level playing field...that's the thing about competition, anything can happen on the day. So, I am confident in myself, I believe when it is necessary, I can pull something together just like I did with this last throw. It's something I have been doing consistently all season, so anything is possible," Campbell added.

Brazil’s Darlan Romani headlines the finalist with a big season’s best of 22.37m. The big American pair of two-time World Champion Joe Kovacs (21.59m) and Olympic Champion Ryan Crouser (21.48m) are also in the mix for the final scheduled for later this evening at 1:35pm Jamaica time.

 

You can catch live action of the 2023 World Athletic Championships by downloading the Sportsmax App.

The Reggae Girlz remarkable and historic run on their second-consecutive Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance, may come as a surprise to many, but those close to the happenings believe it was always on the cards given the players and the coaching staff’s unflinching desire to succeed.

With another campaign being marred by talks of age-old issues of little or no practice games and inadequate preparation, as well as limited funding, ahead of the showpiece currently ongoing in Australia and New Zealand, the collective chorus is one of great optimism that the Reggae Girlz will now be taken seriously and will receive the necessary support and respect they deserve.

Former Head coach Hue Menzies, who was at the helm when the Reggae Girlz first qualified for the France 2019 World Cup, is among those singing praises about the current achievements. But he was also quick to point out that much more work needs to be done, as the country’s women’s football programme is still some ways off from its full potential.

The 43rd-ranked Girlz, who on World Cup debut lost all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia in 2019, have displayed marked improvements on this occasion in holding top-ranked France and Brazil to goalless stalemates and secure their first ever World Cup win in a 1-0 scoreline over Panama on their way to the knockout stages.

Menzies, believes these accomplishments was another show of the players' resilience and strength of character, as they were given very little chance against their more illustrious opponents.

"I believe this was another statement of the players' dedication and commitment and determination to make Jamaica proud. They have again commanded people's attention with this achievement but again, the programme requires more funding if they are to get much closer to these top teams.

"But I am so proud for what the programme continues to achieve, and all the credit must go to Cedella [Marley], who brought us all together with the vision to build this programme. I think we have earned some respect across the world after these performances, but the most important thing is that we earn the respect from our own people of Jamaica," Menzies told Sportsmax.tv in a recent interview.

“Culturally we don’t support female football or female sports on a whole. Corporate Jamaica has to understand how significant it would be for them to collaborate with the Girlz, they can create an impactful platform to help young females to dream big.

“Not only that, but brand recognition through these young ladies, will benefit for a lifetime. So, we have won this World Cup battle but have to keep going to win the war where the holistic development of the programme is concerned,” he added.

Reggae Girlz manager Crystal Walters, who is one of the youngest present at the global showpiece, echoed similar sentiments, as she noted that the hard work and sacrifice made by the players and backroom staff, will never truly be understood by those standing on the outside looking in.

“From the very start of this journey the ladies have been my first priority, watching them rewrite history each time they step on the field, and just being a part of this journey is truly an amazing feeling. what amazes me the most is how well this team stick together with so many distractions, but these ladies thrive on having their backs against the wall and are our living legends,” Walters said from the team’s base in Australia.

For Walters, the onus is now on the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Government and also corporate partners to ensure they build on the Girlz achievements going forward.

“Our focus as a nation needs to be redirected to our grassroots programme, providing proper sporting facilities, as well as adequate sponsorship. It takes a lot to care, but this team has gone beyond greatness, and we need to build on the history that these amazing ladies and staff have once again created.

“It is indeed a fresh testament of what the country can achieve with more substantial backing, as the Girlz accomplishments will provide opportunities and open many doors for these and our other players. It is football for all and we need to use this opportunity to ensure we keep developing,” Walters opined.

Andrew Price, who along with current Head coach Lorne Donaldson, were assistants to Menzies during the 2019 success, said the Girlz — backed by a committed and resolute coaching staff — again forged ahead despite the enormous disparity in rankings, history, funding and support when compared to opponents like France and Brazil.

In fact, even Italy, who the Girlz lost to in 2019, failed to progress from their group on this occasion.

“The performance in Australia has been phenomenal. The Girlz continue to secure historic achievements, almost proving that merely qualifying for their second-consecutive FIFA Women's World Cup wasn't enough.

“These Girlz like to dream big. They went to Australia with a plan and driven by the technical staff, they bought into the plan.  They believed that they had the mental capacity to traverse the group and they did because they believed in each other,” Price noted.

“I told people who would listen, that this team is four years older, four years wiser and the experience they got from 2019 would serve them well. They played each team on their merit and took one game at time. The focus was to get out of the group, and they have accomplished that by showing great fight resilience. Keep the fire burning Reggae Girlz,” the veteran tactician shared.

The Reggae Girlz will next face 25th-ranked Colombia in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, on Tuesday and standout goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer declared that they are ready to once again prove their doubters wrong.

“We were hugely underestimated, obviously with the noise going on outside of us playing and the lack of matches that we had leading into the tournament, I don’t think anyone took us seriously,” the outspoken Spencer opined.

“But as a group, both players and staff, we know we are resilient we had a point to prove and for months we have been saying it, we are getting out of this group, and we have proven just that. I am just proud of everyone for sticking together and getting it done and now we want to keep going,” the Tottenham Hotspur shot-stopper stated.

 Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, has described the national women’s senior team’s historic qualification to the knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Wednesday as the “proudest moment in Jamaica’s football history.”

The Reggae Girlz advanced to the round of 16 for the first time after holding Brazil to a 0-0 draw that knocked the South American women out of the competition. 

“Their hard fought and determined draw against powerhouse Brazil is most commendable. I could not help shedding a few tears of joy,” the Jamaican sports minister said in a statement.

The undefeated Reggae Girlz have yet to concede goal at the 2023 tournament having held the fifth-ranked France to a 0-0 draw in their opening match and then defeating Panama 1-0l for their first-ever victory at the World Cup.

Jamaica finished their group in second place, behind France.

In her communications with the Girlz following the match, Minister Grange congratulated the team on their performance and reminded them that the entire nation was proud and cheering for them.

Minister Grange reiterated her message which she wrote to the team on the eve of their game against France, stating, “I can never tire of telling you how much your presence on the world stage means to Jamaica and the pride we all feel when we see you donned in the national colours. We see that dreams do come true.”

She said the Reggae Girlz are a source of inspiration for Jamaica and fully deserving of the nation’s full support. “I am happy that my government has been able to support the Jamaica Football Federation and the women’s programme on yet another successful World Cup campaign,” she said.

The Government, through the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Sports Development Foundation provides a monthly subvention of J$3M (J$36M per annum) to the JFF for its programmes.

This year, the government allocated an additional J$20M specifically for the Reggae Girlz World Cup campaign, J$10M of which is to be paid directly to members of the squad under the Ministry’s Athlete Assistance Programme.

 In addition, the government insures the Reggae Girlz under the Jamaica Athlete Insurance Plan which covers all health related services including injuries and overseas emergency services up to US$100,000 per athlete.

“Our girls, particularly the Reggae Girlz, the Sunshine Girls (the national netballers who are competing in the World Netball World Cup in South Africa), and the women’s volleyball team (which won the Cazova Championship on the weekend) have made us very proud and have given us such a special gift as we celebrate our nation’s 61st anniversary of Independence.  We are proud of them.”

 

Brazil crashed out of the World Cup after Jamaica battled to a goalless draw in Melbourne to reach the last 16 for the first time.

South Africa came from behind to beat Italy 3-2 and finish runners-up in Group G, with Sweden seeing off Argentina 2-0 while a hat-trick from Kadidiatou Diani helped France beat Panama 6-3 to top Group F.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at all of Wednesday’s action.

Reggae Girlz march on

Jamaica produced a huge World Cup upset in Melbourne by holding Brazil to a goalless draw to reach the last 16 for the first time.

Brazil, who needed victory to progress, dominated their final Group F encounter at AAMI Park but could not find a breakthrough and bowed out at the group stage for the first time since 1995.

The Reggae Girlz, who held France to a 0-0 stalemate in their opening match before beating Panama 1-0, have yet to concede a goal at the tournament and go on to meet the winners of Group H, which will be decided on Thursday.

Late joy for Banyana Banyana

Thembi Kgatlana scored a stoppage-time winner to ensure South Africa reached the World Cup last 16 for the first time after coming from behind to beat Italy 3-2 in Wellington.

Kgatlana struck in the second minute of added time at the Sky Stadium in Wellington as Banyana Banyana secured their first World Cup win to finish second in Group G behind winners Sweden in thrilling fashion.

Arianna Caruso’s early penalty for Italy was cancelled out by Benedetta Orsi’s own goal. Hildah Magaia put South Africa ahead in the second half before Caruso levelled, which would have sent Le Azzurre through to the knockout stages.

Swedes set up USA date

Sweden were confirmed as winners of Group G, setting up a last-16 clash with defending champions the United States, as they defeated Argentina 2-0 in Hamilton.

The Swedes had already clinched qualification for the next round after beating South Africa and then trashing Italy 5-0.

Peter Gerhardsson’s side subsequently completed a 100 per cent record in group stage with Rebecka Blomqvist heading in a 66th-minute opener and substitute Elin Rubensson adding a late penalty as Argentina saw their campaign come to an end.

Diani at the treble

Kadidiatou Diani scored a hat-trick as France secured a place in the last 16 as Group F winners after coming from behind to beat Panama 6-3 in Sydney.

Needing a point to ensure progression, Les Bleues trailed in the second minute when Marta Cox’s superb free-kick gave already-eliminated competition debutants Panama their first-ever World Cup goal and a shock lead.

An emphatic response saw France equalise through Maelle Lakrar and a Diani brace – the second from the penalty spot. Lea Le Garrec’s effort put them 4-1 up heading into the break, with Diani then completing her treble with another spot-kick two minutes into the second half.

Panama reduced the deficit via Yomira Pinzon’s penalty and an 87th-minute Lineth Cedeno header before France midfielder Vicki Becho concluded the scoring in stoppage time.

France will now face the runner-up from Group H – a spot currently occupied by Germany – in Adelaide next Tuesday.

Up next

Group H: South Korea v Germany (11am)

Group H: Morocco v Colombia (11am)

All times BST

In another breathtaking display of grit, stubborn determination and just pure heart, Lorne Donaldson’s Reggae Girlz once again rewrote their names in the annals of Jamaica’s and the world’s sporting history, in more ways than one.

Not only did the Jamaicans hold mighty Brazil to their first goalless stalemate in a group stage at the Fifa Women’s World Cup, but also secured a spot in the knockout stages for the first time in the tiny island's history, and they did so without conceding a goal.

Such statistics in what many will describe as a fairytale run – particularly when their first appearance at the 2019 showpiece in France is taken into consideration –is both emotional and exciting at the same time.

During that 2019 debut, the Reggae Girlz conceded 12 goals, losing all three games to Brazil, Italy and Australia. Now four years later, they held France to a goalless stalemate, defeated Panama and denied Brazil a spot in the Round of 16 for the first time since 1995.

The Reggae Girlz, who finished second on five points behind Group F winner France, who defeated Panama 6-3 in the other contest, will next face the winner of Group H, which is either Colombia or Germany, in Round of 16 action in Adelaide, next week.

Donaldson, who heaped praises on his team for their resilience in rising above challenges both on and off the field, said Jamaicans, both home and abroad, should be proud, as the achievement came a day after the country celebrated Emancipation Day and only a few days before celebrating its 61st year of Independence.

“This is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life, just to see these Girlz and see a country like Jamaica able to achieve this is just unbelievable. I thank the Girlz for doing this for Jamaica and the country should be proud,” Donaldson declared in a post-game interview.

“The resilience and the fight, we knew we were coming into a war, and we had to be ready, and we stood tall in the battle, and we won. We still have some more work to do but we will just enjoy tonight,” he added.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, put the team’s emotions into words.

“We are a team that goes through so much off the pitch no one else believes in us, the ones above us don’t believe in us but we believe in ourselves and as you can see from that performance today, we knew we could do it inside our group,” she said.

“It was tough to hold Brazil, but we proved it against France that we can do it, and it is not just one person, it is not just the defence but the entire team. Like I said, the ones above us don’t believe in us and they always put us through things that we don’t want to go through but that just gives us more fire in our veins to go out there and do well,” Spencer shared.  

With Marta starting the match for the first time in the group stage, Brazil maintained possession for most of the first half, but struggled to really test Spencer, much to the disappoint of the South Americans that dominated a crowd of just under 28,000 in the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.

The Jamaicans, who seemingly thrive when their backs are against the wall, defended stoutly, as they absorbed pressure and answered all questions asked of them by the Brazilians.

Still, the Girlz did display some attacking intent even though they were unable to get anything on Brazil’s goal.

Brazil’s best chance of the game came in the 39th minute, when a delightful chip pass from Ary Borges found Tamires, who met it on the volley with the left-foot, but Spencer proved equal to it.

Brazil lifted the tempo in the second half, as they chased the goal needed to advance, but it was not to be.

A free kick from substitute Andressa and a header from Debinha in stoppage time represented Brazil’s closest chance of scoring the winning goal, as Jamaica’s organized defense stifled the South Americans throughout the game.

Teams: Rebecca Spencer, Chantelle Swaby, Allyson Swaby, Tiernny Wiltshire, Deneisha Blackwood, Drew Spence, Atlanta Primus, Jody Brown (Solai Washington 85th), Vyan Sampson, Cheyna Matthews (Tiffany Cameron 46th), Khadija Shaw

Subs not used: Sydney Schneider, Liya Brooks, Konya Plummer, Havana Solaun, Kalyssa Van Zanten, Paige Bailey-Gayle, Kameron Simmonds, Kayla McKenna, Peyton McNamara, Trudi Carter

Booked: Matthews (30th)

Brazil –Leticia, Antonia (Geyse 80th), Kathellen, Rafaelle, Luana (Duda Sampaio 80th), Tamires, Debinha, Marta (Andressa 80th), Adriana, Ary Borges (Bia Zaneratto 46th), Kerolin

Subs not used: Barbara, Camila, Ana Vitoria, Bruninha, Lauren, Monica, Angelina, Gabi Nunes

Booked:

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI)

Assistant referees: Katrin Rafalski (GER); Susanne Kueng (SUI)

Fourth official: Vincentia Amedome (TOG)

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