It’s been eight months since Scotland crashed out of the World Cup in heartbreaking fashion. It takes longer than that to get over such trauma…
At around 10.25pm on June 19 last year, Scotland were cruising. Erin Cuthbert had just given them a 3-0 lead over Argentina in Paris, which combined with England beating Japan down in Nice, would have been enough for them to qualify for the knockout rounds of the World Cup for the first time.
By 11pm, everything had collapsed. And not just collapsed, but collapsed in the cruelest fashion: Argentina pulled one back through a neat Milagros Menendez finish, then Lee Alexander was wrong-footed by a Florencia Bonsegundo effort that hit the bar and went in off the Scotland keeper. Then the real pain started.
Injury-time was well underway when Sophie Howard lunged in on Aldana Cometti: initially there was nothing from the referee, but eventually she consulted with the VAR monitor and pointed to the spot. Bonsegundo stepped up, and not only did Alexander save the initial kick but she beat away the rebound too.
But perhaps as proof that there is no god, and if there is they are vicious, cruel and want nothing but pain for anything to do with Scottish football, it was ruled that Alexander had advanced from her line too early. Bonsegundo put the retake down the middle. 3-3. Scotland were out.
Eight months have passed since that night. Are the Scotland team over it yet?
“I had a meeting today with Shelley Kerr, and that came up,” Scotland captain Rachel Corsie told the Totally Scottish Football Show this week, still with an element of disbelief in her voice. “I actually don’t think many of us have truthfully dealt with it. It was a blessing that we immediately had qualifiers for the Euros, that were about four or five weeks later. I was also in the middle of my US season so I virtually jumped on a plane and flew straight back and was involved in club football.
“In a way that was good at the time because it didn’t allow you to feel the full emotional, overwhelming feelings that were there. But at the same time I’m a little bit nervous that at one point in time it’s all going to come to a head.
“I think it’s one of these things in life and sport that you go through disappointments, and there’s no real way to explain it. It was unique and horrible.”
It’s tricky to turn that sort of situation into any sort of positive, but could they? Did it act as a bonding experience?
“I don’t think it necessarily brought us closer: we have a really great group who are really close, which I think is even unique in a club environment, so to have it with an international team is even more rare.
“We all have a lot of self-belief, we have some great players at the moment: it’s one of these spells where the youngsters coming through have all matured at a time where there are four or five players [who can deliver]. In one game it might be Caroline Weir who does something spectacular, then it’s Erin Cuthbert, Kim Little, Claire Emslie – there are so many who can individually change a game who are all coming into their prime at once.
“That’s really exciting, and it’s something that motivates us and keeps us encouraged, and keeps us driving forwards. We’re so desperate to qualify for the Euros again this time round: we have a favourable group, and we believe we can get through that.”
Ah yes, the Euros. Qualification has started well, with 5-0 and 8-0 gubbings over Albania and Cyprus respectively already in the bag, but it sounds like both the World Cup disappointment and the quality in the squad is providing inspiration for the tournament in 2021.
“Ultimately the pressure has changed and the mindset has shifted, so that we now understand that if we do get to the Euros, not progressing would be seen as a disappointment, because we are so talented. And that’s really encouraging.”
Further encouragement is provided by the recent announcement that Celtic have joined Rangers in making their women’s team fully professional, and while that might not mean that young Scottish players will automatically play at home, Corsie thinks there will inevitably be some positive benefits.
“I’m intrigued to how that translates and how it looks. ‘Professional’ has a lot of different meanings I think, and it will be interesting to see what parameters they put in place to promote their programme. We need that to happen, but I think similarly to men’s football, England and abroad may always be appealing.
“But one of the major things is having a professional league in Scotland, it does allow youngsters, little girls and boys, to dream of growing up and playing professionally. When I was growing up, I didn’t really think about that: I loved football so I watched men’s football.
“That was great, and I’ve got to where I’ve got to, but it will be really helpful and encouraging. We’ll have more interest in the sport, and if there’s more interest there are more people playing, and the more people playing you have more chance of more quality and so forth. Hopefully that will open a lot of doors, and allow players coming through in the net five, ten, 20 years to achieve things far beyond what we’ve achieved.
“While we’re enjoying our own careers, we understand that we’re part of a legacy, and we’re part of an important period of time where we can accelerate growth.”
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