It is very easy to get optimistic in sport when things are going well, and it is also easy to get pessimistic when things go badly.
Scotland’s 7-0 defeat to the Netherlands can be the sort of result where despondency sets in and people start talking about doomsday scenarios. However, the reason why you have these friendlies is to learn from errors and correct them in time for competitive football.
When Scotland qualified for the Euros, they were playing lower ranked sides like Macedonia and winning comfortably. At the Euros, there will be no easy game.
Of course, the negative of the magnitude of defeat always hits home when you realise these players are role models and key to growing the game in Scotland. Livingston-born Hayley Lauder spoke after the game about the impact Shelley Kerr had on her when Lauder was playing at Murieston and the Glasgow City star spoke about the squads’ pride of being “positive role models”.
On the result, she talked about two themes that would become consistent. One, the players Scotland were missing and two, that they had time to learn before the tournament.
You do wonder whether the second half would have turned out differently if Scotland hadn’t conceded two late goals in the first half. Lauder said, “I think they were on top for long periods of the first half but we managed to contain them. To lose those goals in such quick succession that kind of kills it.”
Scotland’s problems were mainly defensive, but there was also an issue about the use of possession – Scotland had six percent more possession than the Dutch – and a clinical edge in front of goal. Jane Ross, normally so dangerous in front of goal, missed several great chances – including one when the Netherlands were just 1-0 up.
Anna Signeul was very honest after the game. “It was very disappointing. They played really well and to our weakness also, long balls in behind us all the time and on the break…I do think we were too far away from them in the first half, we didn’t go into tackles, they were faster, stronger than us. They were faster, ran more than us. I think we corrected it in the second half, I think we were much better and yet we lost 4-0 in the second half. We play higher up the pitch, we are physically better but one-v-one in our own half, that’s where we lose it. Too many one-v-ones in our own half, too many mistakes, too easy goals. Very disappointing.”
There is perhaps a rush to state that Scotland can’t play without Kim Little – but this result highlighted the importance of Jennifer Beattie and Rachel Corsie in defence.
Scotland’s issue seems to be a lack of quality defenders. This was highlighted by the fact that Frankie Brown, who herself is just recovering from an injury, had to replace the injured Joelle Murray. If Corsie and Beattie are injured in July, at this moment, you’re not sure who will come into the squad.
Signeul highlighted the difference in tempo between the domestic Scottish league and the international game, and this is something that was apparent in both Glasgow City’s and Hibernian’s recent Champion League games. This is not something that Signeul has any control over, and possibly there needs to be a Plan B in what to do if Beattie or Corsie are missing for the Euros.
It should also be said that the new 4-4-1-1 formation is relatively new.
What positives can be taken from the defeat? Despite the scoreline, Shannon Lynn showed herself to be a good Number 2 and if Fay happens to be injured for the Euros, there will be no concerns over Lynn deputising for the Scotland captain. The other main positive was the impact Erin Cuthbert and Fiona Brown made coming off the bench, injecting an energy that was perhaps lacking.
It may sound stupid to say it, but this is not the time to hit the panic button. Scotland needs to use this time wisely, analyse what went wrong, and plot solutions.
Over the next months, Scotland needs a run of fixtures against the top nations like Germany, Sweden and even England – although, the draw for the Euros will dictate which opponents will be selected.
If anything, the result showed the need for Scotland to play the very best in Europe before they meet the best in the Netherlands in July.