The Scotland Women’s National Team face Spain on Tuesday night in what will be our final international match of the year.
The challenge of winning the World Cup qualifier is going to be formidable, based on Spain’s current form and a flawless record which has them top of the Group B with a maximum 12 points and an enormously impressive goal difference of +35 after only four games.
Spain have been consistently prolific in front of goal, and have conceded fewer goals of late than any other national side around the world.
Their rise to the top of the international game has taken many years of development, which started with sustained success at youth level, and those players are now flourishing in their senior careers.
The Spanish domestic game has also grown at a rapid rate, certainly across the top teams.
Scotland and Chelsea attacker Erin Cuthbert witnessed first-hand Barcelona’s frightening performance in the final of last season’s Champions League, where the Blues were beaten 4-0, while Jen Beattie’s Arsenal were handed a similarly ruthless 4-1 loss in their opening game of the group stages against the Catalans a few weeks ago.
Barcelona’s strength is relevant, given the majority of their regular starting 11 have been selected for Spain’s squad.
Although we faced tough opponents Sweden in a friendly match just last month, there’s much more at stake in this game. The pressure on Scotland will be amplified because the margin for error in any European major tournament qualifying campaign is slim to none, and we know the importance of every fixture.
We know the task will be tough, but we are growing in understanding of our own new style of play under Pedro Martínez Losa and working hard to implement it more fluidly.
The plan from the recently-appointed Scotland boss and his staff has been methodical and, after three camps in quick succession, there are increasingly more encouraging signs the team is working towards something very exciting.
As would be expected with a Spanish coach in charge, the idea is to play exciting attacking football, through possession with a purpose. But finding a consistent rhythm will be a continuous process, especially given the sporadic nature of international football – where time together is limited and squads change from camp to camp.
The team knows recent criticism has been warranted as performances have been inconsistent, but there have been notable improvements and, from behind the scenes, there has been a lot of positive growth as we continue to adapt to things.
We will not try to beat Spain at their own game, that would be foolish, but we will implement a gameplan that gives ourselves the best chance to get the most from the match.
To do that, we will need to make sure we are on top of both sides of the ball, and defending diligently will be as important as bringing bravery and quality to our performance in possession.
Washington prevail after difficult year in NWSL
The domestic season in the US ended last weekend with Washington Spirit crowned NWSL Championship winners, thanks to Kelley O’Hara’s header in extra-time.
The decorated right-back has found herself playing as a right winger since returning to club football following the Tokyo Olympics and it has been a genius move.
The final against Chicago Red Stars finished 1-1 after normal time. Rachel Hill gave Chicago the lead right on the stroke of half-time, but that was cancelled out shortly after the hour mark by Andi Sullivan from the spot.
It took only seven minutes into the opening period of extra time for Washington to strike the winner.
A deep cross from rookie-of-the-year Trinity Rodman found O’Hara at the back post, and she sent a looping header past Cassie Miller in the Red Stars’ goal.
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) November 20, 2021
The season in America has been a turbulent one – the abuse claims which were revealed a few months back were devastating and became a catalyst for further reports, lifting the lid on a far deeper and systemic problem.
Spirit were heavily impacted, firing their head coach before a ownership feud played out across social media, not to mention the six points they forfeited in two other league matches.
The Championship win seemed a just reward for their players, who had endured much of the undeserved torment.
The weeks ahead will be a welcomed break by everyone, emotionally and mentally, as much as physically.
Looking ahead, there is already much optimism for what I hope will be the NWSL’s best year yet, starting early in 2022.
Bright is right for England responsibility
Millie Bright will lead England for their upcoming qualifiers, starting later today against Austria.
The Chelsea defender will take over from stand-in captain, Leah Williamson, who suffered a serious hamstring injury for Arsenal last week.
Williamson has had the armband for all of England’s matches since Sarina Wiegman took over as head coach in September.
A permanent captain is still to be confirmed, with other possible candidates, Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze, still recovering from injury.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness made history last week, as she equalled men’s legend David Healy’s goalscoring record.
A hat-trick against North Macedonia takes her to 36 senior international goals.