Hibs Ladies hogging the sunlight as Scotland jet out for Cyprus Cup bid

THE Scottish women's football team head for Cyprus on Monday and there it will be a distinctly green tinge to the Dark Blues' squad.

Out of the 20 players chosen by coach Anna Signeul, no fewer than nine play for Hibernian Ladies.

The Cyprus trip my seem glamorous but it will be anything but a sunshine break for the side as they take part in a prestigious tournament on the Mediterranean island.

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The Cyprus Cup is a new tournament set up by the SFA in association with the Netherlands Football Association and will also be competed for by Japan, Canada, Russian and the United States under-20 side.

Scotland will face the Americans, Holland and Canada (in a non-tournament fixture) before meeting one of the countries from the opposite side of the draw with Signeul seeing the competition as a vital part of her team's preparations for their next European Championship qualifying match against Denmark in Viborg next month.

Among the Hibs backbone of the squad is midfielder Natalie Ross, included for the first time.

Today, Hibs Ladies captain Shelley Kerr, who is hoping to pass the milestone of winning her 50th cap over the coming days, said: "I'm delighted for Natalie, it's girls like her, Kim Little and Jenny Beattie (the daughter of former Scotland rugby star John] coming through who will be the future of the game.

"I've watched Natalie come through from 15s, 17s, 19s and now into the A squad and the great thing for her and the others are that they'll have many years ahead of them because of their attitude, hunger, desire and commitment."

Equally satisfying for Kerr is the number of players from Hibs Ladies who have been named by Signeul. She said: "It's incredible we have so many talented players at our club.

"That's been on-going for a number of years now and it's fantastic. We could well have had ten in the squad going to Cyprus but Kirsty McBride was unavailable because of work commitments."

Although Scotland have endured a disappointing start to their European Championship qualifying campaign, Kerr believes they still have an outstanding chance to progress. She said: "We started with a disappointing draw against Portugal, lost away to Ukraine although we did well, won against Slovakia and lost 1-0 at home to Denmark and again played well despite the vast difference in rankings between us.

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"The qualifying process is very complex with the runners-up in each group and so many of the third-placed teams going into play-offs so for that reason there is still all to play for and I feel we are more than capable of finishing strongly.

"This tournament will be an important part of our preparations. People say it must be nice to be going to Cyprus for ten days at this time of year but it will be anything but a holiday for us. To be honest, we'll be concentrating on our football so much, training, preparing and playing in games we could be anywhere in the world."

Scotland: Gemma Fay (Hibs), Joanna Hutcheson (Edinburgh), Julie Ferguson (Hibs), Ifeoma Dieke (Florida Atlantic University), Rhonda Jones (Florida Atlantic University), Shelley Kerr (Hibs), Amy McDonald (Queen's Park), Joelle Murray (Hibs), Leanne Ross (Glasgow City), Jennifer Beattie (Celtic), Amanda Burns (Hibs), Stacey Cook (Hibs), Joanne Love (Celtic), Megan Sneddon (Glasgow City), Natalie Ross (Hibs), Hollie Thomson (Hamilton Academical), Julie Fleeting (Arsenal), Suzanne Grant (Hibs), Pauline Hamill (Blackburn), Kim Little (Hibs).