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FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019: The Scotland team hoping to captivate a nation

Freelance Scottish football writer Lewis Michie takes us through Shelley Kerr’s squad as they make their debut at the FIFA World Cup in France. Can they make an impact at the competition?

This summer’s Women’s World Cup in France presents another opportunity for growth in women’s football and there is perhaps no country that has begun to take the game to their hearts like Scotland.

While the poor form and difficulty navigating to major tournaments has been hard to take for Scotland’s men’s team, the frustration has been utilised and turned into passion for the nation’s female contingent.

You can see just how much respect is held for the Scottish Women’s National team by how new Men’s team manager Steve Clarke spoke of Shelley Kerr recently.

In his first press conference since being appointed, he said: “Now we have a Women’s World Cup to look forward to in France this summer and it’s my motivation to emulate the success of Shelley Kerr and her squad by leading us to Euro 2020.”

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Names such as Erin Cuthbert, Jane Ross and Kim Little are becoming more well known among football supporters in Scotland.

After all, there are plenty of people in the nation who wouldn’t consider themselves tennis fans but will admit to having watched plenty Andy Murray matches.

The simple fact is, as a nation, Scotland is often starved for successful sporting figures so any that come along are held in the highest regard.

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While Scotland has waited over 20 years for the men’s team to return to a World Cup or European Championship, Shelley Kerr has taken Scotland to the Women’s World Cup.

Her predecessor Anna Signeul also helped take the national team to the European Championships in 2017.

Not only is the team thriving, but Scottish women are showing themselves to be a group of some of the most talented players in the world – with many of the current squad plying their trade in some of the best leagues, for some of the top sides.

The key players

Striker Jane Ross was part of the West Ham side that lost out in the FA Cup final to Manchester City – her former side.

City are one of the top women’s teams in England at the moment – having won the FA Cup and finished second in the WSL this season – and it’s clear the club care deeply about their female side and will continue to invest in it.

The Scotland squad for the World Cup boasts two City players, defender Jennifer Beattie and a certain Caroline Weir.

Former City player, 25-year-old forward Claire Emslie, is off to ply her trade Stateside after signing for Orlando Pride prior to the start of the tournament.

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Chelsea are also one of the better funded WSL sides and they finished third in the division this season.

They were also knocked out of the Champion’s League by Lyon 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final, a Lyon side that would go on to thrash Barcelona in the final on their way to becoming champions once again.

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At just 20 years old Erin Cuthbert contributed – through scoring or assisting – to 13 goals in 19 Super League games this season, as well as scoring four times in the Champions League.

Not only is she vital for the future but she is also vital to the present for both club and country.

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At 28 years old, attacking midfielder Kim Little has racked up 132 caps for her country. The Arsenal player started off with Buchan Girls in the North-East of Scotland before playing around the world, including stints in the USA and Australia.

She scored eight times for the Gunners this season as they won the WSL title.

On top of all of that talent, Scotland have a host of players who play outside of the UK, including goalkeeper Shannon Lynn who plays in Sweden and Rachel Corsie who once upon a time played for Stonehaven and then Aberdeen.

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She is now in Australia, on loan with Canberra United from Utah Royals in the USA, and is the captain of the Tartan army.

There is also Lana Clelland of Fiorentina. The 26 year old striker began her career at Rangers before leaving for Italy, working her way up to the Florence side where she scored 12 Serie A goals this term.

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Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough as her team lost out on the title by one point to Juventus.

Clelland will be hoping to go again next season and why would she want anything else other than to be in Italy right now, which is also progressing at a steady rate as a destination for female footballers.

Sky Italia show’s at least one women’s game every week and Clelland was part of the game – Juventus hosting Fiorentina – which set the attendance record for a women’s football match in Italy with just shy of 40,000 supporters.

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Scots have also played a big part in the history of Manchester United, so it was only right that Lizzie Arnot and Kirsty Smith were recruited when the club finally launched a women’s side last year.

It’s been a good season for both as United clinched promotion to the WSL at the first time of asking, and Arnot, in particular, will be desperate to top it off with a successful summer after she missed Euro 2017 through injury two summers ago.

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Like most national teams aspire to do, this squad has a solid core of talent playing their football in Scotland.

Truthfully, in order to move to the next highest level, many of these players will have to aspire to make moves to the likes of England, Australia, USA and Italy to reach that next step, but the quality is improving in Scotland season on season.

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Goalkeeper Lee Alexander is a stalwart for Glasgow City who have won the last 12 Scottish Women’s Premier League titles – winning the league 13 out of the 17 seasons, and only finishing below second once, in the debut season in 02-03.

She is joined by plenty of her teammates, such as left-back Nicola Docherty, Hayley Lauder, Leanne Crichton and Jo Love – who won her first cap 17 years ago.

Hibernian have often been City’s biggest challengers in the SWPL 1, finishing second eight times and that including in each of the past four seasons. They once again occupy that space so far this season in the SWPL 1, with 11 games gone, but they find themselves five points adrift of City having played a game more.

Hibs are represented in the squad by goalkeeper Jenna Fife and defender Joelle Murray.

The manager

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That’s the squad, but the name most synonymous with Scottish women’s football right now would be Shelley Kerr – the head coach of the side.

Kerr faced a large task when she came in just after the European Championships in the Netherlands.

Anna Signeul was in charge for 12 years and at one point had to convince Kerr not to retire from international duty as a player. Despite having big shoes to fill, Kerr has certainly inspired the nation.

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Kerr has racked up plenty of managerial experience since her first delve into coaching – when she paired her playing duties with being the manager at Kilmarnock for a period in 2004.

Since then Kerr also had spells as player-manager at Hibernian and Spartans and has held managerial positions with Scotland Under-19’s, Arsenal and Stirling University.

What awaits Scotland in France?

That’s the squad and their leader – but what do they face when they arrive in France this summer?

The Scots have been drawn in Group D along with the ‘Auld Enemy’ England, as well as Argentina and Japan.

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First they’ll play England in Nice on June 9, followed by playing Japan in Rennes five days later before travelling to Paris on June 19 to play against Argentina.

This is not an easy group to be drawn in for Scotland with both England and Japan sitting within the top ten rankings – although the Scots are 16 positions ahead of Argentina.

Teams who finish third in their group can qualify for the knockout round depending on their ranking – four out of the six third-placed sides will progress to the round of sixteen.

A win against Argentina is crucial in all reality – that could very well be enough to secure a knockout round position, but a draw against either England or Japan would automatically increase their chances of progressing.

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The Scotland squad in full

  1. Lee Alexander (Glasgow City)
  2. Kirsty Smith (Manchester United)
  3. Nicola Docherty (Glasgow City)
  4. Rachel Corsie (Utah Royals, on loan at Canberra United)
  5. Jennifer Beattie (Manchester City)
  6. Jo Love (Glasgow City)
  7. Hayley Lauder (Glasgow City)
  8. Kim Little (Arsenal)
  9. Caroline Weir (Manchester City)
  10. Leanne Crichton (Glasgow City)
  11. Lisa Evans (Arsenal)
  12. Shannon Lynn (Vittsjo GIK)
  13. Jane Ross (West Ham United)
  14. Chloe Arthur (Birmingham City)
  15. Sophie Howard (Reading)
  16. Christie Murray (Liverpool)
  17. Joelle Murray (Hibernian)
  18. Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride)
  19. Lana Clelland (ACF Fiorentina)
  20. Fiona Brown (FC Rosengard)
  21.  Jenna Fife (Hibernian)
  22. Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea)
  23. Lizzie Arnot (Manchester United)

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