Scotland v Sweden: Spirit, depth and frailties
Anyone's Game looks ahead to Scotland's clash with Olympic finalists Sweden
On Tuesday, Scotland face of the world’s best teams when Olympic silver medallists Sweden visit Paisley.
The Swedes boast players at some of Europe's most successful sides and are unbeaten without even conceding a goal in Group A of their 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualification campaign.
After Scotland’s last-gasp win over Hungary at Hampden on Friday continued Pedro Martinez Losa’s 100% start to the World Cup qualifiers, Anyone’s Game takes a look at that win, what it means for hopes of reaching the finals in Australia and New Zealand, and if they can cause a shock in their friendly with Sweden.
Players fight till the death
The Scots left it late to defeat Hungary 2-1 in front of a record competitive crowd of 6545 fans at the national stadium.
A 90th minute Rachel Corsie header ensured the victory after Fanni Vago had cancelled out Christy Grimshaw’s first half opener.
The result leaves Scotland in a great position for 2023 World Cup qualification with three wins from their opening three matches in Group B.
The late goal clearly emphasises the team spirit among this group of players. Both the men’s and women’s national sides have scored similarly important World Cup qualifying goals at Hampden in a matter of weeks. Sometimes you need that bit of luck. For all the talk of wanting to play neat attacking football under Martinez Losa, both the goals Scotland scored were from high balls into the box. So, that just shows the adaptability of this side. Not many would have expected it to have been the defensive duo of Jen Beattie and Corsie combining to seal the points.
Martinez Losa told BBC Alba after the match that the Scots can be the “best in world” for team spirit and that these are the kinds of games that we lost in the past.
Squad depth could be key
“This is a group with different generations of players that can bring different things in terms of leadership and in terms of building the strategy for the future,” said Martinez Losa.
Manchester City star Caroline Weir and West Ham’s Lisa Evans both returned to the squad after missing out last time through injury. This left the question on many fans' faces as to whether they would both walk straight back into the starting XI.
The squad also included the youthful faces of SWPL stars Lauren Davidson, Jenna Clark, Amy Muir and Leah Eddie which highlights the Spaniards willingness to call up in-form players, no matter their age.
Evans was only named as a substitute while Weir started the match, winning her 80th cap in dark blue. Although due to Hungary’s very organised defensive unit, she was unable to make the desired impact on the match she would’ve hoped for. The 26 year-old was reduced to only a few half chances from distance but there wasn’t that moment of magic that we have become accustomed to seeing her produce at club level in the English Women's Super League.
Both Weir and Erin Cuthbert were forced deeper into midfield too many times in order to help Lisa Robertson out and receive the ball rather than playing closer to Jane Ross, Claire Emslie or Grimshaw up top.
Striker Martha Thomas missed out this time due to injury after scoring in both of the previous victories while Rangers forward Lizzie Arnot wasn’t in the squad at all. This also conveys the strength and depth Martinez Losa has at his disposal to choose from. Working out what his best side and sticking with it may work for continuity but having an array of options in every position can only be seen as a positive. That’s without detailing what players such as Zoe Ness or Lana Clelland - who’s been in fine form playing in Italy - could bring to that front line.
Defensive fragilities remain?
Scotland's Achilles heel in previous campaigns has been the fact that they often dominate possession against teams, create an array of chances but don’t turn them into goals and then find themselves being punished defensively at the other end with a sucker punch. The Scots boasted 62% possession and racked up 17 shots compared to just the three for the Hungarians, the solitary shot on target for the visitors being their goal.
It was almost looking like Deja-vu of past experiences and a disappointing night for the Scots until the captain Corsie fired home to send the Hampden faithful wild.
The goal that the Scots conceded from Vago is not one Robertson or Nicola Docherty, who provided the assist for Grimshaw’s opener, will want to watch again after the visitors punished a string of loose passes.
If they had drawn the game, all eyes would have been on that moment as a defining moment in qualification with Spain, who play Ukraine on Tuesday, already looking favourites for first position in the group. Often when it comes to qualification groups, boasting a significantly positive goal difference can be just as important as securing a victory.
Ultimately, everyone in the Scotland camp will be hoping that these mistakes can be ironed out before playing arguably better sides in Sweden, Ukraine and Spain in forthcoming matches as that is when there’s very little margin for error.
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