As we got to the business end of last week, the only thing that could have otherwise gone wrong was the result against Ukraine in Poland.
Thankfully a 4-0 win against Ukraine followed by Ukraine’s 2-0 win against Hungary four days later means Scotland have secured a play-off spot for next year’s World Cup.
The week away together was one of the best in what I can remember for a very long time.
Perhaps there was some freshness that should be duly attributed to the off-season that many were in, which otherwise was a worrying hindrance to everyone’s feelings of readiness.
Training, the week’s schedule, team meetings and everything else in between seemed to flow flawlessly, which actually probably made me feel more nervous than usual.
The current squad is a unified group that over time have shared many days in camp and it’s become a place that has fostered many close friendships.
For me, Jane Ross is someone I have now spent over half my life playing with and we reflected on that incredible fact as we were sat beside each other on the flight to Rzeszów.
There is a cohesion that knits everyone tightly together that we must treasure, and whilst everyone has their small groups that they can confide in and enjoy spare time with, the collective feels better than ever and I hope it can give us an added advantage when most needed.
Of course good culture has many facets, but a crucial factor has certainly been the training environment and renewed coaching style that has been introduced.
Although performances have endured a transitional period – in which we remain on a journey with – the demands at training have brought some of the most challenging, yet most enjoyable, that I can remember.
Looking back on the past nine months, there has certainly started to be a lot of improvement and it is exciting to start to see some of the hard work starting to bring rewards.
Training extends beyond physical and technical asks, with some of the most difficult sessions involving quite simple drills that ask everyone to use more of their cognitive skills – which certainly asks more of some than others. If you find yourself in Nicola Docherty’s group then make sure there are a few spare balls close by.
Our growth is exciting to reflect on but even more so when looking ahead.
On Tuesday night we confirmed our place in the play-offs, after Hungary lost to Ukraine, and that means the opportunity to reach Australia and New Zealand next summer remains alive as we secure second place in the group.
The squad will still have to wait to understand what route we will take, which will be known following the final round of group qualification games that will be played in September, which includes our trip to the Faroe Islands.
As things stand, a win is required and enhancing our goal difference will be crucial in who we face and how many games we will be required to play.
That window is one we can look forward to and will be another opportunity to add a layer of growth. The process so far has built as the months have passed and that brings confidence and encouragement as we continue to try to go all the way next summer.
Rising stars can light up Euros
There is going to be an unlimited amount of talent on show at the upcoming Euros and as the game has grown abundantly in terms of media exposure, we now can celebrate household names like Miedema, Williamson, Hegerberg, Harder, Seger and the many more who will all be in action this summer.
However, whilst those spectating can look forward to taking in the show, there are some rising stars who will also be hoping they can set the tournament alight and make their mark.
One player that continues to grow in stature is Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp, the 19-year-old plays on the left-wing and is someone who could be at the core of England’s creative threats. With 21 caps and seven goals to her name, she has become a first pick in Sarina Wiegman’s side.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) June 24, 2022
Fellow teen, Lena Oberdorf, has also had an exceptional season for her club team Wolfsburg. The Germans knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League this season and Oberdorf has become an undroppable fixture in the midfield for both her club and country.
She was included in the German World Cup squad in 2019 but this will be the first test for the youngster, where this time around there is some hype and expectation on her shoulders.
The third teenage star to watch out for is Spain’s Clàudia Pina.
Who's ready to see more of this Claudia Pina magic at the #WEURO2022 ?🪄
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) June 27, 2022
The Barcelona forward could feature more than expected, with the more experienced Jenni Hermoso, having to miss out this summer through injury. With her already established club connections, Pina will be the most natural replacement in the number nine spot.
Excitment grows for new season
The first season under the new SPFL name now feels a little more exciting as the fixtures were announced this week.
League champions Rangers kick-start the defence of their title at home to newcomers Glasgow Women.
Fellow debutants Dundee United travel to Motherwell for their SWPL induction.
Glasgow City and Celtic both also start with home fixtures, facing Spartans and Hibs respectively.
Meanwhile, Aberdeen have the winnable task of travelling to Accies, and the final tie sees Hearts welcome Partick.