Scotland Women are happy to take to the pitch in our Uefa Nations League opener against England as underdogs.
We play England at a sold-out Stadium of Light in Sunderland this evening in our first fixture of the new competition.
England are the favourites. They have been the best-performing team in Europe for more than a year and come into this game a month after reaching the World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand.
There is more pressure on them as there is the expectation for them to maintain the standard they have set.
I’m sure they have the belief and confidence they can do that but we also believe we can compete against the top sides.
We come into the match with a strong run of results in our previous camps, having won our last four matches and we are unbeaten in six.
The self-belief we boast now has been built up over time. It’s not something we’ve had to conjure up this week because of who our opponents are.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) September 21, 2023
As players we have learned from working more with each other and we better understand the style that Pedro Martinez Losa and his staff are implementing – which has also helped build our confidence.
There is also more pressure on England as the home side, although we are expecting the majority of the sold-out to be rooting against us.
We will look forward to the reverse fixture at Hampden in December when we will have a more favourable backing.
I can still remember playing against England around 15 years ago in the Cyprus Cup and most of the people in the stands were family and friends of the players.
We will have to embrace the crowd this evening. A lot of people have spent years playing the game where moments like this never happened, so I urge the players to enjoy it as best they can.
It might make some people nervous, but those nerves can be channelled in what we do on the pitch.
We have played against top nations over the past year and have played well in those games. There has been plenty to build on, and we have worked on that to put us in the best possible position going forward.
It will be an intense game against England, but we know we have the capabilities to compete and make life difficult for them.
We have anticipated the speed of the game and moments where we might feel the most pressure.
When the men played in the same fixture, albeit a friendly match, last week we saw how intense the opening 20 minutes were and how dangerous England looked.
We need to make sure we match the level in the opening periods so that when it does settle down, we are still in the game and can capitalise on the opportunities we create.
Scotland U23s a great stepping stone
I believe the new Scotland under-23s squad will greatly benefit the development of our young footballers.
It’s a very positive addition to the structure of our game in this country. If you look at other nations, it is really only the top teams who have an under-23s squad, so it is great that Scotland are striving to create these opportunities.
The under-23s squad are currently in camp ahead of their match against Australia in Italy on Tuesday morning.
There are players in the squad who have played with the A squad, but also some who will be experiencing a more senior level of international football for the first time.
There are lots of benefits which come with that. It helps bridge the gap between youth and senior football, and keeps players who might not be ready for that jump involved in the international set-up.
I was happy to see Aberdeen Women duo Eilidh Shore and Bayley Hutchison included in the squad.
Both have come through the Scotland youth ranks, so this feels like a positive next step in their careers.
It will be a challenging week where I would expect them to be exposed to new levels. The physical demands of international football will be higher than they routinely experience in the SWPL.
The chance to play a nation like Australia is not something they would have experienced at youth level before, so it is another opportunity to experience a different opponent.
A pioneer of the women’s game
This weekend my former club team-mate Megan Rapinoe will play her final game for the United States of America.
I feel very privileged to have had the chance to play with Pinoe. She is a phenomenal player and somebody who has the ambition to drive the standards of the game – on and off the pitch.
She is an incredibly talented player who has won almost everything there is to win.
Pinoe is a pioneer of the women’s game and has helped change its future for the better. I hope she realises that, and I am sure there will be an outpouring of love for her this weekend.