Playing style, post-it notes, baby in camp: Scotland Women's gradual development under Pedro Martinez Losa faces its litmus test against Ireland

Scotland have evolved under manager Pedro Martinez Losa and stand on the cusp of the World Cup.Scotland have evolved under manager Pedro Martinez Losa and stand on the cusp of the World Cup.
Scotland have evolved under manager Pedro Martinez Losa and stand on the cusp of the World Cup.
Perhaps the most insightful comment from Pedro Martinez Losa, manager of Scotland’s women’s national team, came last week when he spoke of recognising but not wilting from a fear of failure ahead of the precarious FIFA Women’s World Cup play-offs.

From coloured post-it notes to chart the daily emotions of his squad to opening the door to defender Emma Mukandi and her ten-month infant daughter to the team’s training camp, the Spaniard has adopted a holistic approach since taking over from former manager Shelley Kerr. As much as Martinez Losa sought to overhaul the playing style on the pitch to a more European-based approach that has centred on possession, organisation, game intelligence and awareness, there has been a gradual change in culture off the park to compliment it.

Captain Rachel Corsie spoke in the aftermath of the semi-final play-off win over Austria as sensing the mental strength in the team as they saw out those last few nervy minutes to set up tonight’s Hampden meeting with the Republic of Ireland. The expectation is that they will need every bit of that and more as they come up against a familiar face in Vera Pauw, the former Scotland manager who will be in tonight’s opposition dug-out, despite the fact that the Irish are without a number of players who are injured.

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The World Cup is not new to the spine of this Scottish side; Corsie, Erin Cuthbert, Caroline Weir, Lisa Evans, Lee Gibson, Sophie Howard were all there when a place was secured at the 2019 tournament in France. The ghosts of that competition have echoed around the squad this week as many have spoken not only of a wish to correct a few wrongs but also just how psychologically demanding it was to exorcise the demons of those weeks.

Defeats by England and Japan were not as tough to take as throwing away a 3-0 lead with 15 minutes to go against Argentina. And that was before news emerged of a team meeting where Kerr admitted to having “had a few drinks” before squad members were left in tears at the message that was put across.

The hangover from that seemed to hang heavy in the air across a doomed European Championships campaign before Martinez Losa was ushered in. It was a slow start to his tenure as Scotland laboured to adjust with one run of four games without a win which included an 8-0 hammering at the hands of Spain. Ironically it was a 2-0 defeat by Spain at Hampden in April that seemed to be a pivotal turning point for this group with the manner of the performance that night posting notice that something had taken root.

Since then, Scotland’s trajectory has been quietly impressive. Spain were always expected to be group leaders, while it was also seen as a long-shot for Scotland to make it through the complexities of the play-off system.

They have come within tantalising touching distance of making it back-to-back appearances at a World Cup. There has been a maturity about recent performances, while the likes of Cuthbert and Weir and the level they play on has been to Scotland’s benefit. However, how they handle the occasion this evening will be the litmus test of whether they are capable of holding their nerve.