• Gordon Sheach

SWNT: Scotland 1 - 2 England – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019

It is one thing to be there. It is something completely different to look like you belong.

On the 19th of July 2017 Scotland were on the end of a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of England in their first appearance at the European Championship. Two years on and the progress made by Shelley Kerr and the Scotland team is clear for all to see.

Scotland couldn’t have asked for a tougher assignment in their first ever World Cup match. England are the 3rd best team in the world according to FIFA’s ranking and are widely tipped to make a deep run in this competition.

Both teams started at a frantic pace with the ball travelling from end to end. In this chaotic start, Scotland managed to fashion openings with both teams looking nervous on the ball.

This chaotic start would be reflected in the opening goal for England and it was a VAR assisted gut-punch. By the (recently revised) letter of the law, the ball clipped off Nicola Docherty’s arm inside the area ‘out with the normal silhouette’. After review on the side-line the penalty was awarded. Nikita Parris slammed the ball high into Lee Alexander’s net to give England the lead. The former Manchester City winger was having a very productive half down the right wing.

It seemed like the perceived injustice of the penalty award took the wind from Scottish sails for the remainder of the first half, with the opposite effect to England. England added another goal in the 39th minute, Ellen White, who had earlier had a goal ruled out for offside, curling the ball past Lee Alexander.

That offside call and several impressive saves from Lee Alexander kept the deficit at two going into the half. That Scotland’s goalkeeper was their stand-out player of the first half told its own story.

Whatever was said at the interval was almost thrown out 30 seconds after the restart when Beth Mead rifled Ellen White’s cross into the back of the net. A raised offside flag kept Scotland in the game.

That reprieve appeared to have a galvanising effect for Scotland who, for the rest of the match, played like a different side. Arsenal’s Kim Little started seeing more of the ball in the midfield and Claire Emslie was able to make runs down the right wing and drag her team up the pitch. Erin Cuthbert who had been forced to make the most of scraps of possession in the first half was suddenly having more influence on the game.

After England’s domination in the first half, the pendulum had well and truly swung Scotland’s way.

Scotland’s pressure was finally rewarded in the 79th minute. Lisa Evans intercepted a sloppy pass from defence and drove towards the box, drawing defenders towards her. She clipped a pass into the right-hand channel where Claire Emslie finished over the keeper courtesy of a deflection.

Suddenly, England were using every trick in the book to run the clock out, starting with Lucy Bronze falling on the ball in the net after Emslie’s goal and refusing to give it up, much to Erin Cuthbert’s frustration.

While an equaliser didn’t come, Scotland can take so many positives from running one of the best teams in the world so very close. Phil Neville’s clear frustration at full time was as much a compliment to Scotland’s performance as much as a criticism of his own side.

Next up is a game against 7th ranked Japan in Rennes. Japan open their tournament on Monday against Argentina in a game that will be closely followed by Shelley Kerr and her team.

Scotland looked like they belonged on the world stage. Now they need to show that they can stick around beyond the group stage.

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