We missed chance to showcase Scottish football - Anna Signeul

Dejected Scotland players go over to thank supporters after the defeat against England in Utrecht. Picture: Lorraine Hill.
Dejected Scotland players go over to thank supporters after the defeat against England in Utrecht. Picture: Lorraine Hill.
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Anna Signeul concedes that an unprecedented opportunity to show Scottish women’s football in a good light was lost when her side was defeated 6-0 by England in Utrecht on Wednesday night

The game, Scotland’s first in a major championship, was watched by a television audience of 2.2 million on Channel 4. Those tuning in expecting to see a closely contested battle between football’s oldest rivals instead witnessed a game that England dominated after scoring an early goal.

“Yes,” the head coach, pictured right, replied when asked about the missed opportunity. “That’s what we spoke about – this tournament is a fantastic opportunity to promote our game. I hope the fans are still positive, as we need to be, and I hope people will tune in and watch us again.”

It is now essential for Scotland to win Sunday’s game against Portugal in Rotterdam. The fourth-seeded nation in Group D lost 2-0 to Spain in their opening game, but whereas they performed better than expected, Scotland hugely under-achieved. Signeul will be without striker
Jane Ross as an initial scan has revealed shoulder ligament damage. The yellow card challenge which caused the injury was made by her Manchester City team-mate Steph Houghton, who is captain of club and country.

Lana Clelland, who was top scorer in Serie A last season despite playing for middle-of-the-table UPC Tavagnacco, will replace Ross. She did well when coming on for the last 20 minutes against the Republic of Ireland a fortnight ago and will relish the opportunity for a rare start against Portugal. Nevertheless, Scotland have lost a 50-goal striker, and that’s a huge loss on top of having to play the entire tournament without Kim Little, whose tally is 48.

Signeul refused to point the finger at individual players following the England defeat, but big questions obviously have to be asked of the defence. The marking was poor even if the winning side’s finishing was exemplary, with six of their nine attempts on target producing goals.

“It’s a team and there has to be collective responsibility for what happens on the pitch,” Signeul said. “We don’t blame individuals. We have a lot of good players in this team but we didn’t perform on all levels on the night so we need to look at that and see what we can do against Portugal. I do think we met a very, very good English team – probably the best I’ve seen and with some fantastic players. Jodie Taylor scores from every opportunity she gets. She’s clinical and they have great players in other positions on the pitch and are physically tough, too.

“If you look at the statistics, that’s what’s a bit disheartening because we had seven corners to their four and we were actually not bad in ball possession either – 57 per cent to them and 43 per cent to us.

“When you look at the statistics it’s not a 6-0 game, but unfortunately there were six goals in it.”

As well as Little, four other regular starters from the qualifying campaign – Emma Mitchell, Jen Beattie, Jo Love and Hayley Lauder – didn’t start against England, although Love, who has been nursing an Achilles strain, did come on near the end. By that time Ross was off and the player Love replaced, Rachel Corsie, is another who has been a Scotland regular for many years.

She, too, has barely played for the last six weeks because of a recurring knee problem and could be a doubt for the Portugal game.

Signeul admitted the 90 minutes at the Stadion Galgenwaard were a brutal learning experience for her players. “A little mistake at this level and you get punished,” she said.

“We’re not going to say forget about the six goals that went in. We have to say that was not good so where are the faults and how can we correct them? This level is a brutal learning experience and it’s about decision making under pressure.

“But I do think England are one of the best teams here. I’ve looked at the other teams and I don’t think I have seen one that is so good.”