Scotland Women one match away from World Cup - how they toughed it out against Austria at Hampden

At times this game seemed far removed from Australia and New Zealand in every possible sense. The teeming rain, the bleakness of the night and the early nerves of this performance did not seem in keeping with a World Cup display.

Scotland's Abi Harrison celebrates after making it 1-0 during a FIFA Women's World Cup playoff match between Scotland and Austria at Hampden Park, on October 06, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Scotland's Abi Harrison celebrates after making it 1-0 during a FIFA Women's World Cup playoff match between Scotland and Austria at Hampden Park, on October 06, 2022, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

And yet Scotland produced. An Erin Cuthbert corner in the opening 90 seconds of of extra-time and a powerful Abi Harrison header kept the World Cup ambitions alive at the expense of an Austrian side who will rue their second-half profligacy. Not that Scotland will care to look too hard at that, claiming a 1-0 win.Pedro Martinez Losa’s side now face the Republic of Ireland in Tuesday’s play-off final, again at Hampden. With this game attracting a record crowd of 10,182 – the biggest for a competitive women’s game at the national stadium – Scotland will seek for the same support as they look to land a golden ticket to next year’s prestigious tournament.

It was an unsettled opening period for Scotland who seemed jittery in the opening exchanges as they slowly set out their stall against this summer’s European Championship quarter-finalists who looked to set an early tone in this encounter.

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It was the Scotland’s credit that they weathered that early spell of pressure and slowly forced their way into the game. There was no real surprise in how pivotal Caroline Weir was to Martinez Losa’s side trying to piece together patient passages of play to open up their visitors.

At one point in the opening half a simple turn and step away from two Austrian shirts before releasing Lana Clelland brought forth an enthusiastic response from the home support, eager to find any positive energy on which to feed off of.

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As the game progressed, Scotland’s confidence steadily emerged but, as always according the football gods, failure to take chances, half or otherwise, in such moments can prove to be costly. The chances that Scotland fashioned were not clear cut but did offer an indication of their own attacking verve at times.

Cuthbert, tigerish and industrious in the middle of the park, just couldn’t get on top of a Martha Thomas ball before Weir’s cross was claimed by Austrian goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger before it could do any damage. Almost immediately afterwards winger Claire Emslie, who enjoyed a lot of space on the left-flank, threw herself to get on the end of Sam Kerr’s cross but the Austrian goalkeeper was firm as she came out to claim the ball.Emslie had the pick of the bunch in terms of the chances. A clever little chip from Kerr picked out the LA based winger but unable to appreciate the time and space she had, she paused and the chance was lost as the Austrians recovered.

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The Austrians, though, looked the more menacing of the two sides. Nicole Billa had an effort that Scotland keeper Lee Gibson was relieved to watch loop onto the roof of the net. By the time the whistle blew for the interval Scotland were grateful for a brief reprieve after a series of three corners had put them under heavy pressure while Julia Hickelsberger had an effort clip the top of the crossbar before dipping over.

Austria picked up the same tempo after the break with Laura Feiersinger forcing a save from Gibson from the edge of the box while Hanshaw again took a pop with a rasping 20-yard effort.

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The drama of extra-time rolled with Scotland prevailing. Cuthbert might have settled any nerves when she almost doubled the lead before Austria captain Carina Wenninger deflected the ball out for a corner.Hampden will do it all again on Tuesday.