Rachel McLauchlan’s dreams of representing Scotland at the 2023 World Cup are still alive thanks to the women’s side’s play-offs success.
The 24-year-old, who fails from Avoch on the Black Isle, helped Scotland to second-place in qualifying Group B, having featured in four of the seven qualifiers thus far.
Scotland secured a play-off spot after defeating Ukraine last week, before the Ukranians beat Hungary, meaning the Scots are uncatchable in second place.
McLauchlan, who has 14 caps for Scotland, missed on the most recent games of the qualifying campaign due to injury.
Scotland could play up to three play-off qualifiers in their bid to make it to their second ever World Cup, which takes place in Australia and New Zealand next year.
And, although Scotland won’t know their fate until at least October, McLauchlan is already hoping for the chance to play on the world’s biggest stage.
She said: “Even at the start of the campaign, before you play any games, you’re thinking of how amazing it would be to get to the World Cup with the team.
“Of course, I have that dream, but we’ve got to focus on how many games we’ve still got to go with the play-offs before we can actually get to Australia and New Zealand.
“Now we have to focus on that, and let the dream motivate us to get there.”
McLauchlan has already turned out for Scotland in a major tournament, having played in the 2-1 defeat to Portugal at the Euros in 2017.
Despite the result, she experienced the buzz of representing her country at such a competition, and is determined to do it again.
McLauchlan added: “When Pedro (Martinez Losa) came in we started talking about what we wanted to achieve. We want to win things like every other national team.
“Personally, I would love to be at something like the Euros again. I was a few years younger then, so I feel like a different player now.
“It would be amazing to play for Scotland at a World Cup – it would be something new in my career, so it’s an exciting possibility.”
A trophy-laden career in Scotland
To be selected for Scotland, McLauchlan will have to perform at club level, which shouldn’t prove difficult for the full-back, who has won nine pieces of silverware in her career.
Her most successful spell was at Hibernian, where she won domestic Scottish Women’s Cup and SWPL Cup doubles three seasons on the trot in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Whilst at Glasgow City in 2019, McLauchlan won her fourth Scottish Cup – defeating the Hibees – and lifted the league trophy for the first time in her career.
In 2021, she moved to Rangers, and last season McLauchlan lifted her most recent piece of domestic silverware, as the Glasgow side won SWPL 1 as ‘invincibles’.
She said: “I don’t sit back and think about it too much – I just want to push on to the next thing and keep adding to that tally.
“I’m obviously delighted to win things. It’s what I want to do in each team, so it’s a happy place to be at in my career at the moment.”
McLauchlan is hoping to increase her trophy haul to double figures in the upcoming season and beyond, after extending her contract at Rangers until 2024.
However, her personal goal is to play the 2022-23 season without injury trouble, after missing spells of the SWPL 1 season last term due to a quad injury.
McLauchlan explained: “I just want to get through a whole season and stay on the pitch.
“I’ve got my individual targets I want to hit, but a lot of it right now is focusing on staying fit and we’ll take it from there when the season gets going.”
And staying fit should better her chances at being named in Pedro Martinez Losa’s Scotland squad for the play-offs in October.
McLauchlan added: “I want to do well at Rangers and that will hopefully get me back in to the national squad as well.
“I’ve obviously got a few months now before the next Scotland camp, so I just want to get back playing, get myself back up to speed and then I can focus on what’s to come.”
Football back home in the north
In 2018, McLauchlan was named an ambassador for a local girls’ football team in Inverness, who were then called Thistle Girls FC.
Earlier this year, Thistle Girls became part of Inverness Caley Thistle, after their CEO Scot Gardiner saved the club as they were on the verge of collapse.
Having grown up up north and played senior football in Inverness, McLauchlan knows how vital it is for there to be football opportunities for girls in the areas.
She said: “It’s so good for the young generation coming up. When I go back home up to Inverness, the amount of girls I’m seeing on pitches training is crazy.
“When I was younger you’d always have to be in with the boys’ squad and even still that was a bit of a push. It’s really good to see now and hopefully it continues that way.
“It’s a really positive thing girls in Inverness can be part of a club now where there is a pathway to go into women’s football.
“The girls playing in the youth teams can see that they can move up into a women’s squad, so that’s a great motivation for them.”