It's #ALLORNORTHING for Scotland's women against Iceland in Euro 2017 qualifying. We speak to Lisa Evans ahead of the big clash...
Europe may be gearing up with giddy excitement for Euro 2016 in France in just over a week but first up there are several, vital games taking place in qualifying for next summer’s showcase finals in the Netherlands.
What's the latest? France had the honour of qualifying first (11th April) for Euro 2017, with Germany following hot on their heels. Along with the hosts that’s three teams confirmed but still 13 berths to play for. The top nation from the remaining six groups will qualify, with six of the best runners-up following suit (and a play-off for the final spot). What happens over the next five days could go a long way to deciding the other nations that will join the party.
What are the big games coming up? First up, Norway (with a 100% record) will look to overtake Austria at the top of the table in Group 8 when they host them in Oslo, this evening (Thursday) and in Group 4 Denmark will want to leapfrog Slovakia into second place behind Sweden. Other ties on Friday and Saturday see sides currently occupying second and third places in their table coming together for to jostle for points and improved positions (Friday: Grp 2’s Finland v Rep of Ireland & on Saturday: England v Serbia in Grp 7).
Scotland v Iceland
Arguably the biggest clash of this round of games, however, is Scotland v Iceland, at Falkirk FC (7pm, Friday). Scotland sit atop Group 1, with 27 goals in their five wins out of five, having only been outscored by Germany (30 in 6 games) and in Jane Ross they can boast the competition’s leading striker with a tally of 8. Not bad going for Anna Signeul’s side. Not bad at all.
Iceland, similarly, have a 100% record after four games. They’ve netted 17 in the process and conceded none, proving how organised and stingy they are defensively. Only Germany, Sweden and Norway can also boast a spotless ‘goals against’ record so far in the campaign.
Fresh from enjoying Allianz Women’s Bundesliga title-winning success with Bayern Munich in Germany, Scotland’s speedy winger Lisa Evans took a time-out from training on Tuesday to chat to SHE KICKS about the big match ahead:
SK: We’re a bit star struck speaking to a Bundesliga winner… LE: Ohhh, not at all!
SK: Firstly, congratulations on the title, was it a great experience? LE: Yeah, it was really, really good. It was obviously my first Bundesliga title, so it was special. It was such a relief and a brilliant experience.
SK: Did you get to muck about with big glasses of Paulaner beer like the Bayern Munich guys do, when they win the title? LE: Yeah, we did! We had them on top of the balcony too [at the Town Hall in the Marienplatz, where both men’s and women’s teams paraded the title trophies], with huge beers. I only had a sip, I’m not a big beer fan anyway, to be honest.
SK: So, we guess everyone in the camp is buzzing for the game against Iceland on Friday? LE: Yeah, for sure they are. It’s a crunch game and we’ve know that since we were drawn in the campaign, so we’re all really up for it.
SK: Is it a bit of a make or break game for your campaign? LE: Nah. Obviously, Friday is a huge game but I think we can qualify, definitely, with four points from the three games that we’ve got. It IS a crunch game but it’s not make or break. Obviously, we want to win the game. 100%. But I still think we have a chance even if it doesn’t go our way.
SK: You mention 100%... Scotland have a 100% record in the group so far, it must give you and the squad a massive sense of confidence? LE: Without a doubt. Also, the way that we’ve been playing - we’ve been playing really well and playing well together. Iceland have a 100% record as well though, so…
SK: Does it help that you are playing the home game first? LE: Errm, I think so. I don’t really think it is such as big factor like it is in the men’s game, playing home or away. We’ve had a lot of really good performances playing away from home as well. But I would say, having home advantage first, does help us.
SK: Considering how the past three tournament qualification stages have gone, losing out in the play-offs, it must add to your determination to keep this in your own hands? LE: Without a doubt. We don’t want to be back in the play-offs like we have been in the past. We’ve had heartbreak in those play-offs, so we just want to do our job and get through and not have to deal with any play-off situations.
SK: If you look at individual players who have been through those experiences, you are all a few years older, have gone on your own journeys, with many now playing regularly for big teams, in various leagues and able to concentrate more fully on your football, that must have made a massive difference? LE: Yeah, I think so, for sure. I think even the league in Scotland has gotten so much better and we’ve got people who are playing at a much higher level now, in general. I think having the girls abroad makes the national team so much stronger and it has really helped us and benefitted us.
Lisa in action v Macedonia (LORRAINE HILL)
SK: Looking at your attacking players, the pace and goalscoring form of yourself and your team mates, you wouldn’t want to be an Icelandic defender coming up against you? LE: Exactly, I know. I wouldn’t want to play against us, that’s for sure! Obviously, they’ve got really good players too.
SK: Who is there to be wary of from the Icelandic team? We know the name of Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir from Swedish champions Rosengard and Dagny Brynjarsdóttirwho is at Portland Thorns but we don’t know much else about them? LE: Yeah, Sara Bjork is one of the names I know, Dagny was with Bayern last season and I know the goalkeeper Gudbjörg (Gugga) Gunnarsdóttir because I played on the same team (Turbine Potsdam) as her in Germany. I don’t really know much else about them at this stage, we are yet to go through our analysis with the team. I think they’re just a really good ‘team’.
SK: Iceland’s men’s team are gearing up to go to France to play in the Euros, they’re a very small nation and understandably everyone there is very excited about it, do you think it would have helped you a little to have a more successful men’s side to emulate? LE: I really don’t think that’s a factor. The men’s team not qualifying doesn’t really have a great impact on us.
SK: Could it possibly mean you get a bit more attention when things go well?
LE: Maybe. I’m hoping people will turn to women’s football because the men are not qualifying, although we’re Scottish and we get behind the men’s team anyway, no matter whether they’re qualifying or not. But hopefully it will start attracting attention to women’s football. That would be great for us.
SK: You’re only two away from 50 caps, you might get it in Belarus on Tuesday? LE: Yeah my dad was telling me in the car the other day, I didn’t realise!
SK: But [said cheekily] you’ve only got 12 goals… LE: To be honest, I’m not really a goalscorer. Even in Germany, I don’t score often. It should be better.
SK: You can put that right on Friday? LE: I hope so.
We do too. It’s #ALLORNOTHING. Get along to cheer them on!
UEFA Women's EURO 2017 Qualifier
Scotland vs Iceland Friday 3rd June 2016, 7pm kick-off The Falkirk Stadium
Tickets are still on sale for Friday's crucial UEFA Women's EURO qualifier aganst Iceland at the Falkirk Stadium.
The popular youth group offer returns, which allows five adults and 20 children to attend the match for just £30. You can download the form here.
Pay at the gate will be in operation on matchday, with entry at £5 for adults and £2 for concessions.
A pre-sale offer of two-for-one on tickets is also available from the Falkirk FC shop at the stadium or by telephone on 01324 624121.
Neither are workable or likely at present but hypothetically, would you prefer a more strict salary cap in the FA WSL OR should centrally contracted England players (that receive salaries from The FA) be allocated more evenly around WSL1 clubs?