Qualifying for World Cup not enough for Scotland’s Rachel Corsie

Scotland's Christie Murray and Rachel Corsie. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Scotland's Christie Murray and Rachel Corsie. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
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The journey to a World Cup has been a test of endurance and along the way some of the players in this Scotland squad have been thwarted by disappointing dead ends.

They have had to reconfigure their footballing sat nav as a consequence but the miles have been worth it for players such as Rachel Corsie, who will lead the nation out at a women’s World Cup for the first time ever, and straight into the lions’ den.

She will captain the side in the opening group match against the English lionesses, believing it can be the Scottish pride that runs rampant, Then there will be fixtures against Japan and then Argentina as they look to progress to the knockout stage and prolong their involvement on the biggest platform.

They will do so with a growing support behind them. A record-breaking crowd of 18,555 gave them the ideal send-off at Hampden on Tuesday night and it represented one more memorable moment in Corsie’s career, which has served up several.

From domestic medals to Champions League football, her first cap, against France in 2009, to making history as Scotland made it to the Euros and now the World Cup.

“I’m still trying to savour everything. It can be hard to live in the moment but I think the team knows that we need to enjoy it as much as we can,” said the 29-year-old. “We need to recognise the achievement of qualifying and we are going there to do well.

“We have ambitions to get out of the group and from then on in, the draw can go many ways. In one-off games anyone can win and we won’t limit ourselves.”

It is everything Corsie has worked towards since breaking into the national team a decade ago. In the years since, there have been near misses, but that simply drives the defender on.

A member of the squad which finally hit the big time qualifying for Euro 2017, the hope is they can avoid the heavy defeat inflicted on them by England, again in the opening group game, and shrug off the nerves and click into top gear quicker than they did when losing to Portugal in the second match. They did produce a performance to beat Spain in the third, but it was too late to prevent them bowing out of the competition.

Things have moved on from then, though. The joy of simply qualifying has been usurped by the ambition to make their mark this time and, as a leader and motivator, Corsie will lead by example and demand the best from others.

In that regard she is an onfield version of her manager, Shelley Kerr, who also knows the pain of getting close to major tournaments in the past before falling agonisingly and narrowly short. Both have occupied the centre-back berth with distinction in dark blue and while Kerr is the one who has introduced a more attacking philosophy since taking over from Anna Signeul in the wake of the Euros, Corsie is one of those who have happily adopted it.

From her early days at Aberdeen, to Glasgow City, Notts County and on to the USA, withUtah Royals, there has also been a loan spell in Australia, with Canberra United. But having impressed throughout the qualifying campaign and in friendlies since, she and her colleagues are focused solely on the tests that await them in France.

They are travelling with confidence, having beaten Switzerland, Poland, Belarus and Albania to top the group and secure automatic qualification, while decent showings, albeit narrow defeats, against USA and Canada, and the even more recent morale-boosting victories over Denmark and Brazil, prove they are capable of going toe to toe with 
the best.

“The whole year has been good,” enthused the captain. “We’ve had some good opposition, playing different styles of teams. We’ve given ourselves challenges, which prepare us well. There’s still work to do and we’ve got to make the best use of our time now, so we’ll be ready come 9 June.”

While the 6-0 drubbing by England at the start of the Euros can serve as a warning, it does not engender fear in the player who donned the captain’s armband in a 2-0 Cyprus Cup win over England in March 2011. That was the first time that Scotland had defeated the auld enemy for more than 30 years but with so many Scots familiar with the English stars, playing alongside and against them every week in the professional FA Women’s Super League, Corsie is not writing off leading the country to another triumph in the latest neighbourly tussle and travelling further than ever, right into the heart of a major finals.