With a record breaking Women’s World Cup over it is the case that all eyes are on Scotland as we host the Women’s U19 European Championships. With a predominantly home based squad there will be hopes that some of the talent that has dazzled SWPL crowds this season will get a chance to demonstrate their skills on an even bigger stage but there’s no hiding from the fact that Scotland will be underdogs throughout their tournament run.
Having qualified for the tournament five times previously, the last being in 2017, Scotland have won just once in their fifteen previous attempts at the finals with a 2-0 victory over Belgium in 2014 their only triumph to date, a game in which World Cup star Caroline Weir got the opener. They did earn a point in 2017 with a 1-1 draw against hosts Northern Ireland, a result sandwiched between defeats to Germany and Spain, before a defeat to England in a U20 Women’s World Cup play off rounded out their campaign.
Scotland missed out on the 2018 tournament having finished third in qualifying behind Italy and the Czech Republic and so will look at this summer’s finals as a potential chance for further progress. Perhaps the toughest test in a group that also includes 2014 champions Netherlands and four times runner up Norway will come in the opening contest against France, a match that will also see the tournament’s opening ceremony precede it. Here at Leading the Line we wanted to give you everything you need to know about our first Group A opponents.
Only Germany, with six, have won more Women’s U19 European Championships than the French who currently sit on four. After claiming their first title in 2003 they had to wait seven years for a second before racking up victories in 2013 and 2016. As hosts at last years U20 World Cup they finished fourth and are one of a number of traditional European powerhouses who are starting to make significant waves in the women’s game.
Qualifying for this summer’s tournament took place in April with the French seeded as hosts and drawn into Elite Round Group 7 along with Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia with games played in and around Biarritz in the countries south western corner. A record of played three, won two and drawn one doesn’t quite tell the full story though as they blew away both the Portuguese and Slovakians by 6-0 score lines before ending their campaign with a 0-0 draw against Slovenia having already confirmed their qualification.
The Head Coach & Style
Head coach Gilles Eyquem took on the role of U19’s head coach back in 2012 before adding U20 duties to his remit a couple of years later. He had notable playing stints with Giordins de Bourdeaux, AS Cannes, Chamois Nortais and SCO Angers before he moved on to coach in the French lower leagues.
During the Elite Round qualification process he showed a preference for a 4-3-3 system although the shape of the midfield three can often change dependent on the opposition. The system offers a great deal of fluidity and gives Eyquem a number of ways to best utilise the abundance of attacking options at his disposal.
One to Watch
Melvin Malard was France’s top scorer during the Elite Round phase with three goals, scoring a double against Portugal before coming off the bench to score against Slovakia. The Olympique Lyonnais youngster was also on the score sheet last October when Scotland hosted the French in Paisley. She has already played three times for the six-time Champions League winners having made her debut this season and this progression can be seen as an indication of just how highly she is regarded by coaches at the all-conquering club side. A threat either in the centre or coming in from the right hand side as part of a forward three she will no doubt keep the Scotland rearguard busy.
Last time they faced Scotland
As just mentioned the sides met as recently as October of last year when the French ran out comfortable 5-0 winners as part of Scotland’s preparations for the tournament. Goals from Sonia Ouchne, Lorena Azzaro, Sarah Zahot, Malard and Amelie Delabre brought into sharp focus the challenge Pauline Hamill and her side will face over the coming two weeks in a game where eight of her squad featured.
What are Scotland’s chances?
If the French come into the game thinking it is already won then a fast start from the Scots could provide an unlikely upset but any improvement on October’s result will be seen as progress.
Scotland host France Tuesday 16th July at St. Mirren Park. Kick off is at 7.30pm with admission priced at just £2 for adults and £1 for concessions. Leading the Line will be there to take in the action and will be back at the end of this week to look ahead to Scotland’s next match against Norway on Friday.
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