SCOTLAND coach Anna Signeul last night said she was confident that her side can beat Spain over two legs and qualify for next summer’s Euro 2013 finals in Sweden.
The Scots will play at Hampden for the first ever time this afternoon and will also need to make history if they are to reach their first major championship finals. They face a difficult, but not insurmountable, task against Spain.
There are only five places between the sides in the Fifa rankings and, like Scotland, today’s visitors also fell at the final hurdle in trying to qualify for the previous European Championship. Whereas Scotland lost to Russia only on away goals, Spain were beaten 2-0 in both legs by Holland.
“They are very good attackers, and when they lose the ball they try to win it back quickly,” said Signeul. “We need to be very precise in our defending, and do so as a team, but we are good at that. We also have players throughout the side who can score goals. For both reasons we are a very tough side to beat.”
The two sides trained at a sodden Hampden yesterday, and there was excitement among the Scotland players as they prepared for the biggest game of their lives. Even Arsenal midfielder Kim Little, who has played at the Emirates and Wembley, couldn’t wait to play her first game at the national stadium.
A worry for the Scots, especially on a heavy pitch, is that nine of the squad played in Scottish Cup semi-final matches on Wednesday night, but Signeul said that, while far from ideal, she was confident that her players would have enough recovery time.
Scotland, who finished second in their qualifying group, must also try to avoid losing the first goal, which they did in five of their eight group matches, although they retrieved the situation in all but the two games against runaway winners France. Once again, Signeul preferred to look at the positives. “We can’t go out and say we’re not going to concede a goal at home,” she pointed out. “That’s not my way of talking.
“If it happens we know we can turn it around because we did it so many times in the qualifying group. It’s a strength, not a weakness, that we can react to that happening.
“The most important thing is that we believe we can qualify for Sweden. We know we can do it – and we are going to do it.”
For Glasgow City captain Rachel Corsie, who will win her 47th cap, returning to Hampden as a player will bring back happy memories. She travelled to Glasgow from Aberdeen with her parents many times to watch Scotland.
“To play at Hampden is a dream come true for a spectator, never mind a player,” said the 23-year-old. “The game I remember best was when we beat France 1-0 in 2006. That highlights for me that in 90 minutes anybody can win a football match.”
Corsie will also achieve something which eluded her great-grandfather, Donald Colman, when she runs out at Hampden. The former Motherwell and Aberdeen right-back was picked four times for Scotland, but the only home game, a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in 2011, was played at Celtic Park.
“When I was young, my gran would show me his medals and photographs,” Corsie recalled. “There was also a Scotland cap which is almost identical to the ones we get now. It’s a nice tradition that we’re keeping it in the family.”
Today’s kick off is at 2pm and admission is free.