Featured Image: Andy Buist
Scotland’s warm-up friendlies for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 have to decide two key things: the best starting eleven, and the best system.
There is no way you can begin to suggest the ‘best eleven’ – although, your choice is unlikely to be far from the fact. But the first friendly against Denmark which ended in a 2-2 draw suggested that there is a formation that Scotland can be successful with.
However, it should be pointed out that Denmark played three at the back.
Sometimes it is hard to describe the formation because systems are usually fluid. Scotland started with the formation that they had used in the past two matches to varying degrees of success: a qualifying win over Iceland and a heavy friendly defeat to the Netherlands.
Jane Ross and Fiona Brown played up front together with either one of them dropping deeper when Scotland was without the ball.
This, however, led to a few issues. Denmark played a 3-4-1-2 with danger player Pernille Harder given a free role to roam behind their front two. With Scotland just playing a simple midfield four, Denmark managed to dominate the game and dictate the play.
When you look at some of the teams Scotland will play at the Euros, this cannot happen. Scotland cannot allow opposition time to pick out passes in their own half.
Of the two goals Scotland conceded in the first half, the second is more worrying. It was a simple ball through the middle, knife through butter and a simple goal.
There were positives, though. Scotland scored a well-taken goal and defended well. There may not have been the urgency or the overall level of pressing required, but that maybe due to fitness issues over the fact the domestic season has not started. Ifeoma Dieke showed a good reading of the game, stopping Harder late on from scoring by not committing to a challenge, and blocking the shot when it came.
The game changed with the introduction of the half-time subs. Lizzie Arnot came on for Emma Mitchell with Hayley Lauder moving to left back. Rachel Corsie replaced Ifeoma Dieke in defence, Leanne Crichton came on for the booked Caroline Weir and Erin Cuthbert for Leanne Ross.
This brought about a subtle change in the formation, with Arnot and Fiona Brown on the wings with Erin Cuthbert playing in the ‘Number 10’ position. This meant that without the ball, Scotland played a 4-5-1 formation and then in attack, it became almost a 4-2-3-1 formation.
What this meant was it gave Scotland an extra player in the middle of the pitch in Cuthbert so when Denmark had possession, Harder could be picked up. It also stopped Sanne Troelsgaard from having so much time on the ball.
More importantly, though, and something that will be key in the Euros, was it gave Scotland a route of attack. On numerous time, Cuthbert would pick up the ball just outside the Scotland box and run into the Danish half. It should also be said that Lizzie Arnot and Fiona Brown had that directness and speed as well.
I think this is was Scotland need to get right. The right players to be able to read the game when the opponents have the ball to stop the attacks, and the speed of attack to launch counter-attacks.
The most important thing for Signeul though is every player who came on laid down a marker to say why they should be in the first team.