Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay says Scotland are a very different proposition from the side which lost 6-0 to England in the opening group game of Euro 2017 last summer.
Mackay and Shelley Kerr, who replaced Anna Signeul as head coach after the Euros, were at La Seine Musicale on Saturday night to witness Scotland, in their first World Cup, being drawn in the same group as England, Japan and Argentina.
The first match is once more against England – this time in Nice on 9 June – with Japan in Rennes and Argentina at the Parc des Princes in Paris to follow.
The mood music was good despite the Scots landing in the same Group D as the teams which finished second (Japan) and third at the 2015 World Cup. Additionally, the Japanese, traditionally a force in women’s football, were winners in Germany four years earlier.
“We’re a completely different outfit now,” Mackay said. “We had injuries going into the Euros to be fair, so let’s be clear about that.
“I look at the athleticism of the squad Shelley has now, the changes she has made, and the confidence we have. They’ve had real pressure games, none more so than the last two qualifiers against Switzerland and Albania.
“The players are now also bedded in for 18 months with the manager so they know her demands.”
Scotland had a troubled build-up to the Netherlands tournament, as not only were they beset by multiple injuries to key players, but the squad imposed a media black-out before eventually agreeing commercial terms with the SFA. Again, Mackay promised that everything possible would be done to prevent a repeat.
“Fifa have given us £700,000 for qualifying and there’s another £400,00 in prep money coming too,” he pointed out. “All of that will be spent on the team on top of over £1 million we’ve spent at the moment.
“There will be more money than has ever been spent on the women’s game. We’ll also look at the legacy of what we do beyond the World Cup, because we have to build on that going into the next Euros.”
Like everybody present, Mackay was amazed the draw again produced an opening group game between football’s oldest international rivals. “It’s incredible, you couldn’t make it up,” he said. “I was speaking with Phil Neville [the England manager] in the hotel before the draw – there’s 24 teams and we go and pull each other again.
“We talk about growing the women’s game in Scotland, and what better than playing England in the first game? Japan are also huge. Argentina are an unknown quantity just now, but won’t be by the time it comes to play them.”
Kerr, meanwhile, revealed she has been speaking to Craig Brown, the last men’s manager to take Scotland to a major championship – also in France, in 1998 – about what to expect at a World Cup. “He was one of the first people to send me a letter after we qualified,” she said.