Scotland Women head for historic first World Cup Finals
Background image G Laird CC BY-SA 2.0
The Women’s World Cup started yesterday, with the Scotland Women's team heading to France as they look to spring a surprise or two.
Women's football has grown hugely in recent years and Scotland are amongst the up-and-coming teams on the global stage. Two years ago, they played in their first major finals; the European Championships, going out in the group stage on goal difference.
However, it's qualifying for their first World Cup which has pushed Scotland's Women's team firmly into the limelight, winning seven of their eight qualifying games to reach the finals ahead of the higher ranked Switzerland.
Qualifying for France is a huge achievement in itself, the men’s team haven’t been in the World Cup finals in over twenty years, making their last appearance, somewhat ironically, at France 1998.
In the build-up to the finals, Scotland has had two of their most historic days in history. Earlier this year they beat Brazil 1-0 - a feat that has never been done before by either the women or the men's team.
That will have put Scotland on their competitors' radar, while the country itself has shown they will get behind their new heroes. Their final home warm-up game before the World Cup finals was played at Hamden Park, seeing a record attendance for the national Women's team set as over 18,500 turned out. Scotland overcame Jamaica 3-2 with a performance which is sure to keep the fans interested in what is an exciting brand of football being played by Shelley Kerr and her players.
Scotland has been handed an extremely tough draw for the finals, being paired with England, Argentina and Japan. However, they will be confident about making it through into the next round.
The finals are a 24 team tournament with six groups of four, meaning four of the third-placed teams qualify for the knockouts.
Scotland opens their campaign against the old enemy, England, on Sunday. However, despite the Lionesses' rise in recent years, Scotland has every chance at getting something. The world number three side were shocked by New Zealand, losing 1-0 in their final warm-up match just last weekend.
If Scotland is to qualify they will need to gain maximum points against Argentina, who are amongst the lowest ranked teams in the finals and had to win a play-off to qualify.
The 2011 winners Japan will be a tough assignment, as despite not being up there with the favourites this time around, they are still seventh in the world and have qualified for every World Cup finals.
The key players
Scotland’s manager, Kerr, won over 50 caps for her country as a player. She's had a successful career in the hot seat so far. Previously Kerr has managed north of the border, but also had a spell in charge of Arsenal when she led the Gunners to two FA Cup’s. However, it has been non-stop success as manager of her national team. Leading them at the European finals two years ago before reaching their first World Cup.
Attacking-wise, Scotland has a forward line that will be able to cause trouble to any defence in the competition. West Ham United striker Jane Ross comes with experience having scored 58 goals for her country. However, Arsenal midfielder Kim Little is their star name. In Little, Scotland has a genuinely world-class player who could be the difference between them progressing deep into this tournament or falling at the first hurdle.
The men’s Scottish manager, Steve Clarke, has just taken over after a disastrous start to the European Championship qualifying campaign. The women can certainly set a high marker for his reign in charge of the national team and help put Scotland back on the football map. The talent is there and I wouldn't be surprised if they can pull off a surprise or two over the next two weeks.