Scotland’s Head Coach Anna Signeul has announced her squad for Scotland’s crucial Euro 2017 qualifier away to Iceland on the 20th September.
It is possible that Scotland will have already secured one of the top-six best runners-up spots before they kick-off, but the reality is that they will likely need to draw to qualify. And regardless of the qualification situation, it is important for Scotland to beat Iceland for confidence reasons.
Back in June, Scotland lost heavily 4-0 to Iceland in a game that could have seen them virtually qualified as group winners. On that day, poor defending cost them at crucial moments and going forward, Scotland lacked the clinical edge that had been with them throughout the campaign.
However, teams have bad days and the reality is this has been a great campaign for Scotland. They are on verge of history and everything about this game should be positive. And if things don’t go right, Scotland will still have a play-off to secure their place.
Scotland will not be lacking experience in their defence. Keeper and captain Gemma Fay is closing on her 200th cap, whereas the likely central partnership of Jennifer Beattie and Ifeoma Dieke have over 200 caps between them. The full-backs may have fewer caps, but Emma Mitchell has won the FA Women’s Cup this year, Kirsty Smith is an SWPL Cup winner and Nicky Docherty has been a successful and key part of Glasgow City. Another option at left-back is Glasgow City’s Hayley Lauder who has 77 caps – but, Signeul may want to deploy her further up the pitch.
However, Beattie can play in midfield, so it is possible that Hibernian’s captain Joelle Murray may be selected in central defence. Unfortunately, Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie misses out with an injury.
Scotland struggled to break down Iceland and so how their midfield plays will be critical. Signeul has often played a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-2-2-1, and it maybe that Leanne Crichton plays a deeper role. Jo Love could play either in her usual sitting role for her club or out wide as she has done often in this campaign. Love has scored six goals in the qualifiers and is Scotland’s second-top scorer. But with the choice of forwards named, it is more likely she will play in her club role.
Caroline Weir is another player likely to start, and Signeul commented after the loss to Iceland that Weir’s move to Liverpool had seen a marked improvement in her. Recently, she hit headlines with her stunning free-kick seeing Liverpool beat Arsenal in the WSL 1.
Leanne Ross provides a different option in midfield and the Glasgow City captain is one goal away from breaking the club’s goal-scoring record.
Of course, the player all eyes are on is Kim Little – arguably the best player in the world, and she has the 2016 BBC World Service Women’s Footballer of the Year Award to back that claim up. But, whilst her talent is undeniable, Scotland is more than a one-woman team. They cannot rely on her to open up Iceland, and nor should they with the players they have available.
Harrison Named Among Forwards
Scotland will hope that Jane Ross packs her shooting boots as she looks to add to the eight goals she’s scored in the qualifiers so far. Christie Murray is another option, although she could be played in a deeper role off the main striker.
But what is noticeable about the majority of the forwards is the one word that describes them – pace.
Lizzie Arnot and Fiona Brown have the pace and skill to leave full-backs in knots and have had superb seasons in the SWPL to date – Arnot scored Hibernian’s winner to lift the 2016 SWPL Cup. Bayern Munich’s Lisa Evans won the 2015-16 Frauen-Bundesliga and will be a great attacking threat and is likely to start.
The name though that jumps out, although not entirely unexpected, is Abigail Harrison. The 18-year old Hibernian forward has captained Scotland’s Under-19 squad and has never been called up to the full squad – although, she was named in a July training camp. Harrison has been linked with a call-up before, due to displays that defy her age. She’s a forward who can play up top or on the wings and will look for the spaces to run into. If she plays against Iceland, she will be a threat to a strong Icelandic defence that has yet to concede in the qualifiers. And if she doesn’t play, she looks set to play a key part in Scotland’s future.
Goalkeepers: Gemma Fay (Glasgow City), Shannon Lynn (Vittjso GIK)
Defenders: Jennifer Beattie (Manchester City), Ifeoma Dieke (Vittjso GIK), Nicky Docherty (Glasgow City), Emma Mitchell (Arsenal), Joelle Murray (Hibernian), Kirsty Smith (Hibernian)
Midfielders: Leanne Crichton (Notts County), Hayley Lauder (Glasgow City), Kim Little (Seattle Reign), Jo Love (Glasgow City), Leanne Ross (Glasgow City), Caroline Weir (Liverpool).
Forwards: Lizzie Arnot (Hibernian), Fiona Brown (Glasgow City), Lana Clelland (UPC Tavagnacco), Lisa Evans (FC Bayern Munich), Abigail Harrison (Hibernian), Christie Murray (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Zoe Ness (Mallbackens), Jane Ross (Manchester City)