Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr and her captain, Rachel Corsie, are strong characters who hate losing. It’s an attitude which will be required in abundance if Switzerland are to be beaten at the Simple Digital Arena in Paisley tonight.
The ideal scenario for the Scots is to win by two goals against the Group 2 top seeds, and so take fate back into their own hands ahead of the final 2019 World Cup qualifying group matches on Tuesday. Kerr’s side travel to Albania, while the Swiss have a potentially more difficult game in Poland.
There is no denying, however, that having won all their opening six qualifiers – including a 1-0 win over Scotland in Schaffhausen – Switzerland are in the driving seat for the one automatic place in the France tournament. Head coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has declared it’s her intent to win tonight, but even a draw would be enough to secure a second successive World Cup qualification. A former distinguished German internationalist, she will return home to take charge of her native country after the qualifying phase.
The permutations are endless if Scotland win by a single goal. It might not be enough to win the group, and the automatic qualifying place, as Switzerland have a better goal difference – but added to a positive result in Albania would almost certainly deliver a place in the four nation play-offs.
“Everyone is getting excited about the prospect of going to a World Cup, but it’s going to be a tough ask,” Kerr admitted. “However, it’s a really good opportunity for us to measure how far we’ve come.” The head coach, a robust central defender for club and country, nominated a similar type of player when she had to find a new captain following Gemma Fay’s retiral after Euro 2017.
Corsie, who turned 29 earlier this month, has been playing in the United States for the last four years, having earlier spent a slightly longer period at Glasgow City and the now-defunct Notts County.
The Aberdonian has had a torrid time with injuries in recent years, but has settled in well at her new club, Utah Royals, where she plays in central defence alongside the United States captain and 2015 World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn.
“On a personal note I’m just happy to be back playing,” Corsie said. “I’ve had 25-plus games this year, whereas for the last couple of seasons I struggled.” Remarkably Corsie won the National Women’s Soccer League’s “save of the week” award on two successive occasions last month, an achievement which cemented her popularity among the Royals fans.
The first was a diving header which deflected a certain goal round the post against Orlando Pride, the second was a lung-bursting sprint back to block another goal-bound shot against North Carolina Courage. “It’s something the league does and I’ve never been nominated before,” Corsie said. “It was nice to get some recognition.
“I’ve been playing well and enjoying my football. That makes a big difference and there are moments like that when you need to dig a bit deeper.”
Digging in a bit deeper is something Scotland will need to do tonight.
They were caught short in their two previous high pressure “must-win” games at home – a World Cup play-off match against the Netherlands at Tynecastle in 2014 and a Euro 2017 qualifier against Iceland at Falkirk two years later.
They got away with the latter because two teams qualified from the group, but there is no margin for leaving anything in the St Mirren home dressing room tonight.