Anna Signeul’s possible Scotland swansong not for faint-hearted

Anna Signeul supervises a training session as Scotland Women prepare for their  with Spain. Picture: PA.
Anna Signeul supervises a training session as Scotland Women prepare for their with Spain. Picture: PA.
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The ground of Go Ahead Eagles in Deventer is where the 12-year and four-month tenure of Scotland head coach Anna Signeul is expected to end tonight. Scotland will play Spain in a match all too reminiscent of the one between the sides for the final place in Euro 2013.

Signeul will never forget the way that match ended, even claiming she felt she was going to suffer a heart attack when Spain’s star player, Vero Boquete, scored in the final minute of extra time on the outskirts of Madrid.

Tonight’s third and final Euro 2017 Group D matches do, of course, offer a glimmer of hope that Signeul might extend her tenure into the quarter finals – but realistically trying to regain some pride after two disappointing 
opening defeats is the target.

Despite losing 6-0 to England and then 2-1 to Portugal, Scotland would somehow reach the last eight if they beat Spain by two goals or more. Even then, England would have to simultaneously beat Portugal in Tilburg.

Spain are a slick side who were unlucky to lose to England after dominating possession. Earlier they had made short work of Portugal. They are also more accomplished than they were back in 
October, 2012.

Goalkeeper Gemma Fay, pictured, had saved a penalty and, with the aggregate score in the play-off standing at 3-3, Signeul’s side were on the cusp of qualifying on away goals. Signeul had been shouting furiously at German referee Bibiana Steinhaus to tell her time was up when the ball went out of play, but she added a fatal few seconds and Spain got their goal.

The match official was in the news recently when it was announced that she will become the first female to 
referee in the men’s 
Bundesliga this season.

“I’ve had a career playing all different sports, and I’ve been so competitive, but I have never felt so physically ill,” Signeul said. “I thought I would actually have a heart attack. All the blood disappeared because I could not believe it was true. I dropped to the floor and couldn’t stand up. I have never felt so ill, by football or sport. When I saw Boquete’s goal go in it was impossible. I can feel the pain still.”

The striker will not be in the Spanish line-up for the first competitive game between the sides for nearly five years. To general amazement, Spain head coach Jorge Vilda didn’t pick 30-year-old Boquete, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, in his 23-player squad.

The former Barcelona youth player is just six years older himself and was massively successful when in charge of the Spanish Under-17 and Under-19 sides. Most of his players are from Atletico Madrid, who are the Spanish champions, and Barcelona, who finished second.

Signeul has hinted she could change her formation, and give a first start to Erin Cuthbert, who came off the bench to score in the 2-1 defeat by Portugal. The game is also likely to be the last for Fay.

The 35-year-old captain, who has a record 202 caps, remains defiant: “Of course, I think we can do it,” she said. “It’s a winner-takes-all game. We can’t rely on the emotion of that night to push us through. What we need is a good 
performance.”

The sides drew 1-1 in a 
friendly in Falkirk last year.