Punching Above Their Weight
Scotland's women head to Russia today with the prospect of a further two flights before the get to the Spartak Stadium in Nalchick for Thursday's second leg of the EURO2009 play-off tie. The full squad will be travelling as there were no injuries or suspensions picked up in Sunday's first leg. Scotland's travel arrangements are in stark contrast to their Russian counterparts who flew into Scotland on a private jet. Women's football is big business in Russia and the many millionaires that have appeared on the scene want to be associated with popular culture and are willing to spend big.
Scotland were without their top scorer Julie Fleeting on Sunday as she was suspended and on TV pundit duty for BBC Alba who covered the game live. However, Fleeting's absence allowed Celtic's Pauline Hamill to pick up the goalscoring challenge with aplomb and score a pair. She believes that Scotland has made significant progress over the last three years. The last time Scotland played Russia the result was again 3-2 in Russia's favour. However, the time before that Scotland were hammered 6-0. Hamill believes if the squad take heart from the magnificent performance at Tynecastle in front of their biggest ever crowd a win in Russia is very possible. She said: "That result in Russia three years ago was like Custer's Last Stand! But now I think we can go to Russia and win over there. We're only 90 minutes away and we just have to give it everything, because we want to be in the finals. And, even though we lost on Sunday, we really still believe we can get there. We had a great start to the match. We were really positive going forward and put pressure on them. But, at stages in the game, we started to drop off a bit and they started to influence things. I should have had a hat-trick. I'm disappointed, but it was a good save the keeper made (to deny Hamill a third)." It is a pity that referee did not see that it was a save as she blew for a bye-kick. This was but one of several odd refereeing decisions made by the Romanian officials.
Scotland huddle for warmth on Sunday
Scotland manager Anna Signeul is hoping some changes in personnel to both sides for the second leg will help Scotland secure the win to book their tickets to Finland next year. She said: "Two things will help us on Thursday. First of all we will have Julie Fleeting on the pitch, and, secondly, we will have Russia's number eight (Savchenkova) not on the pitch. After this result we have to take a chance. In the attacking third, we were really strong, and that's how we must play in Russia - put pressure on the ball holder, not wait for anything. These are full-time players we're up against and we have to work so hard. We had a good first half. After Russia scored the penalty I thought we showed a little bit too much respect for them. We have to be brave. We are good one-on-one in attack but perhaps not so good one-on-one in defence."
Savchenkova realises she will miss the second leg and is helped off the pitch
Ger Harley (ger@scottishfitba net)
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