Jo Love insists Scots won’t fail in World Cup bid

SCOTLAND midfielder Jo Love believes the time has arrived for her side to finally make the finals of a major championship. They have the opportunity against Sweden in Gothenburg tonight – but if this very high hurdle can’t be jumped a second chance to reach next year’s World Cup in Canada awaits through the four team play-offs.

Jo Love says Scotland are on a roll at the moment and are capable of beating Sweden. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Jo Love says Scotland are on a roll at the moment and are capable of beating Sweden. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

“We’re going to do it this year,” promises Scotland’s most capped outfield player. Love, who won her 151st cap in Saturday’s 9-0 rout of the Faroe Islands, has been almost an ever-present in the Scotland side since making her debut against Canada in 2002.

This footballing longevity makes her well placed to comment on her side’s progressively closer encounters with major championship finals. When the 28-year-old won her first cap, Scotland’s lowly status denied them the opportunity to even attempt to qualify for a World Cup; in this 2015 campaign they have taken the third best team in Europe, and the Group 4 top seeds, right down to the wire.

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Both sides go into the showdown at the Ullevi Stadium having taken 24 points off the other four nations in the group. Love’s side also have the superior goal difference, but what they don’t have is the 3-1 win recorded by Sweden when the sides met at Fir Park in June. The Scots need to win by that margin, or more, tonight if they are to become the seventh European side to qualify automatically for next year’s finals in Canada.

“We’re on a very good roll in the campaign and I don’t see why we can’t turn it around and go back to the top of the table,” Love says. “The scoreline at Fir Park didn’t reflect the way the game was played, and as we’re not expected to win we’ve got nothing to lose against Sweden.

“We cemented a place in the play-offs by beating the Faroes 9-0 on Saturday. Even if we don’t get the margin of win we need at the Ullevi, we’ve always got a second chance to qualify for Canada.”

Even that won’t be easy with four nations chasing the final Uefa allocation in the finals, but near misses in the play-offs for Euro 2009 and, notoriously, 2013, when Anna Signeul’s side were denied by Spain’s last kick of the ball in Madrid, have made Love and her team-mates all the more determined to reach a major championship.

“Every time we’ve got closer the pressure has got more intense,” she points out. “It allows people to come out with the ‘typical Scotland’ statements when we have a near miss.

“It disappoints me to hear that because an incredible amount of work has gone into taking Scotland from where we were in 2002 to the position we’re in now. Then it’s dismissed as if failing to get to finals is part of the story.

“The more experienced players like Gemma Fay and I have had to fight for everything we’ve got now. I hope the younger players appreciate it, because it has been pretty much life-changing for us to see how much the sport in Scotland has progressed in recent years.”

One of the beneficiaries of the Scottish government’s funding of women’s football, Love is on a far more regimented fitness programme than ever before – but still works part-time for Glasgow City Council. A trained scientist, she works in the consumer department, testing trading standards complaints.

“I really like my job, but the extra training has got me to where I wanted to be for a long time,” she explains. “I love being part of the Scotland squad.”