Scotland’s women face Canada in a one-off international at Newtownabbey today, and coach Gordon Shepherd is in a unique position – for the first time in his career he has a full squad available, there are no injury issues and no Great Britain distractions.
Shepherd has selected a squad of 23, along with three further internationals against Ireland later in the week.
At the end of these warm-up games, Shepherd will have the agonising task of reducing the squad to the required 18 for the European Nations Championships in Belgium later this summer.
The Canadians are in preparation mode for the forthcoming Pan-American Games, and have already played Ireland – honours were even with a narrow win each and the final encounter ended in a 4-4 draw.
“While Canada will be well prepared with matches against Wales and Ireland already under their belt, I expect to beat them in today’s game,” said Shepherd. Canada are at present four places below the Scots in the world rankings.
“Ireland will be tough and close as always, but the players will be focusing on getting results against them as well as the standard of performance,” he added.
Shepherd’s confidence is matched by statistics – over the last year his charges have played 14th-ranked Ireland no fewer than eight times, winning four, drawing three and only losing once.
Last year, Ireland took the bronze medal at the Champions Challenge – they drew 2-2 with the Scots in normal time but won 4-3 in the resulting penalty shoot-out.
Shepherd may relish the wealth of experience at his disposal. Eight of his squad have over 100 Scottish caps, and captain Linda Clement can boast of 205. Emily Maguire also has an Olympic bronze medal with Great Britain at the London Olympics, so Shepherd’s quandary now will be which five players to leave out for the Belgian tournament.