After the Scotland Women’s National Team made history last month by reaching a major tournament for the first time ever, the process now goes towards preparing for the Euros.
The friendly against the Netherlands this Thursday is less about the result but far more about the lessons learnt from the game against a side ranked 12 in the world – nine above Scotland.
Scotland’s stated aim at the Euros of reaching the Quarter-Finals is an achievable one, but first, they will have to navigate three tricky group games – with a possible game against the Netherlands (who are in Pot A) or England.
The Euros will be the Netherlands fourth tournament (although they did qualify for the 2017 Euros as hosts) with their best ever finish coming in the 2009 tournament when they finished third – losing out to England in the Semi-Finals. Their second tournament was the 2013 Euros, but they were knocked out in the group stage – despite drawing against Germany. The Netherlands qualified for the 2015 FIFA World Cup where they reached the Round of 16 – beating Scotland in the Qualifying Play-offs.
The Dutch squad have tournament experience. Scotland doesn’t.
The Dutch forward line includes Vivianne Miedema, who Hibs fans will know far too well from their Champions League games against Bayern Munich. Miedema came to international attention when she finished top scorer in the Dutch’s successful 2014 UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championship – and played against a Scotland side that won their first ever game at that tournament.
These friendlies that Scotland will arrange over the next six months will give Anna Signeul a chance to look at players – Erin Cuthbert, Rachel McLauchlan and Abi Harrison being examples of players who may get a start. But it also a chance to work on tactics towards the tournament.
There are talented players who Signeul has looked at over the past couple of years who haven’t had their chance on the pitch, and this would be a perfect chance to give them a try-out. But you have to balance experimentation and planning. There is no point in trying things out if they won’t be used in the Euros. Everything has to be directed towards that game.
It is vital that lessons are learnt before the Euros. An example of this was the difference between the two games against Iceland. In the home game, Scotland was more attacking and played in the style of other qualifiers. In Iceland, Scotland played a 4-4-1-1 formation, corrected their mistakes and produced a great performance to win 2-1.
Whatever the result was, it is the first step on the route to the Euros.