Shelley Kerr’s side qualified for their first ever World Cup, which will take place next summer
A Scotland football team representing the country at the World Cup was already a distant memory on the verge of fantasy, however Scotland’s senior women’s national team have made it a reality. Shelley Kerr’s side qualified for their first ever World Cup, which will take place next summer, after a 2-1 win over Albania in Skhoder. Goals from Kim Little and Jane Ross either side of an Albanian equaliser saw the side through. However, the Scots went into the final qualifying game sat in second place, level on points with group leader Switzerland. Kerr’s side knew it was necessary that the Swiss slip up and not win their final game in Poland to see Scotland qualify automatically as group winners. Despite nearly six minutes of stoppage time the Swiss could not break the Polish rearguard and slipped out of the automatic qualification spot at the eleventh hour after a goalless draw.
This is the first time since 1998 that any Scotland senior team has reached the prestigious finals. The country’s last World Cup ended in disappointment as they were dumped out of the competition in the group stage. Coincidentally, and perhaps fittingly, Scotland’s last venture some twenty years ago took place in France, the same country that will host the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
This qualification reflects the continuing development of women’s football in Scotland. The country is currently ranked 21st in the world but is sure to fly up the rankings after their success. This is also the first time in over two decades that a Scotland national team has qualified for two successive major tournaments with the women’s senior side also competing at the 2017 European Championships.
Shelley Kerr has to take a lot of the plaudits for the national team’s achievement. The 48-year-old has worked wonders and instilled a strong team spirit since being appointed eighteen months ago. Kerr told BBC Scotland: “I’m so proud for everyone involved in the girls’ and women’s game in Scotland. The players have grown and grown and grown. They’ve matured as a team.”
Kerr will certainly hope her star players such as Erin Cuthbert, Kim Little and Jane Ross can stay fit and consistent because they are integral to Scotland’s football. Former Scotland striker and record Scottish goalscorer Julie Fleeting was also very complimentary of another star player Caroline Weir, who this summer completed a move to Manchester City W.F.C from Liverpool, where she won the club’s player of the year two years ago.
Fleeting spoke of her admiration for Shelley Kerr and the job she has done. Speaking on BBC Scotland’s coverage of Scotland’s win in Albania, the ex-Scotland skipper said: “Shelley had taken over a fantastic squad of players from predecessor Anna Signeul. She’s put her own stamp on the squad, changed the style of play and introduced some young, exciting players. The players respond so well to her coaching and you can see everything she asks of them, they manage to perform on the field.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted of her pride at the team’s achievement: “Massive congratulations to our women’s team as they show us how it’s done. I’m a very proud patron.”
The squad will find out who they face in the finals in France in December and will perhaps hope that they are separated from the England women’s team, who beat them 6-0 in the opening group game of their previous major tournament outing. However, Kerr’s dynamic team may not fear anyone after losing just once in qualifying and this could potentially be the time to exact revenge on the “Auld Enemy”.