Welcome to the first Opposition Focus of Scotland’s Women’s Euro 2021 qualifying campaign. Despite being top seeds in Group E Scotland have been drawn against some potentially tricky opposition including a Finland side managed by former Scotland coach Anna Signeul. A figure rightly lauded as one of the catalysts for the national side’s recent successes as well as being in charge as Scotland qualified for the 2017 Euros, their first appearance at a major championship finals.
They also face Portugal who defeated them at that tournament 2-1 along with debutants Cyprus and World Cup 2019 Qualifying opponents Albania. It’s a group that Shelley Kerr’s side has the ability to get out of and she will be hoping to avoid the final day drama that ultimately went in her favour in Shkoder eleven months ago.
Qualification starts this Friday with a home match against tournament newcomers Cyprus and with the nine group winners and the three best runners-up qualifying automatically three points will be viewed as a minimum requirement with far tougher challenges to come. This whole preview has been a slog. I found myself sitting up until 1.37am (yes I checked the time) on a school night trying to decipher the Google Translate version of a Lithuanian match report. There has been some learnings though, and at the very least, you will hopefully know just a little bit more about Friday’s opponents come the end.
This is Cyprus’s first stab at qualifying for a major tournament and they are currently ranked 117th in the most recently published FIFA standings. Perhaps the island nations biggest contribution to women’s football to date is the Cyprus Cup an annual tournament hosted in the country which, along with the Algarve Cup, sits just below the SheBelieves Cup (where the very top sides compete) in terms of standing in the women’s game. In the 2019 final North Korea defeated World Cup Quarter Finalists Italy 7-6 on penalties following a 3-3 draw.
Glasgow City also have experience of Cypriot opposition as they defeated national champions Somateio Barcelona 2-1 on aggregate on their way to the Last 16 of last year’s Women’s Champions League however very little could be taken from a squad that was flooded with imports from across the globe.
In February and March of this year the Cypriots played host to Lithuania, Malta and Estonia as they competed with their fellow minnows for the 2019 Aphrodite Cup. They started their campaign with a 2-1 victory against Lithuania thanks to goals from Antria Kirkini and Eleni Giannou (or Fotini Andronikou depending which site you use) before following that up with a 1-0 defeat to Malta. They ended their campaign as it begun with another victory as they saw off Estonia thanks to an Antri Volari strike to top the standings in this round robin tournament.
After endless searching I’ve been unable to locate any highlights of the tournament and have had to rely on reports in Lithuanian, Estonian and, in the Maltese FA’s case, English (thankfully). As such it will have been hard for Shelley Kerr’s coaching team to garner much intel from the tournament both in terms of content and quality of opposition.
Most recently they were defeated 6-1 by Hungary with Paola Adamou scoring the consolation for visitors. Scotland’s last contest against the Hungarians saw them run out 3-0 victors in in Telki with goals from Jane Ross, Claire Emslie and Lana Clelland and so, using some playground arithmetic based on the level of victory, a 9-1 win looks sure to be in the bag.
The Head Coach & Style
Angelos Tsolakis is a former men’s international striker having made seven appearances and scoring one goal during that time and the 50-year-old had spent the entirety of his playing career during the 90’s in his homeland. He has had experience in women’s football club management prior to his spell in charge of the national side as a result of a one year stint in charge of Apollon Limassol.
As for style, it would be safe to assume that Tsolakis will bring his side to Edinburgh with a view to frustrate far superior opponents but an assumption, at this stage, is all that can be made.
One to Watch
At time of writing neither the UEFA, Scottish FA or Cypriot FA websites possess any squad information. The women’s national team section of the Cypriot FA website hasn’t been updated since 2015 and even Wikipedia only has just enough information to suggest that there is indeed a women’s national side from Cyprus.
Thankfully though the Estonian FA has us covered and whilst I can’t tell you who will be the exact player to watch from the oppositon you can be rest assured that the names of Loukritia Chrysostomou and Chara Neophytou will sound as bewildering as the Gaelic commentary provided by BBC Alba on Friday night for those of you watching at home.
Last time they faced Scotland
Friday night will be the side’s first ever meeting.
What are Scotland’s chances?
Whilst a proper in depth preview has been hard to achieve there is no point sugar coating it. If Scotland are to qualify then nothing other than a win against the tournament debutants will do. Opening the campaign with three points is a must but perhaps the biggest challenge for Shelley Kerr will be ensuring that victory is sealed in some style after a turbulent couple of weeks as we look to build on any remaining momentum from this summer’s World Cup.
Scotland host Cyprus on Friday 30th July at Easter Road, home of Hibernian FC. Kick off is at 7.35pm with admission priced at just £5 for adults and £2 for kids is if you’re around get out and support the side.
Leading the Line will be there so remember to follow the latest flights of fancy from the site over on Twitter @MFPTasty.