SCOTLAND head coach Shelley Kerr says it is time for the hard luck stories to end ahead of this evening’s 2019 World Cup draw in Paris. She and her players will be aiming to go where no Scottish side – female or male – has ever gone in a major championship and reach the knock-out stages in France next summer.
La Seine Musicale, but Scotland were confirmed as third seeds when the new Fifa women’s ranking was issued yesterday. There will be six groups of four teams for the June finals, with the top two in each and the four best third-placed sides qualifying for the last 16.
Although much depends on tonight’s outcome, that theoretically gives Kerr’s side a better than 50-50 chance of making history. Other than avoiding holders USA, who have never finished outside the top three in the previous seven women’s World Cups, the head coach says she is happy to take her chances in the draw.
“I won’t say we want this team and that one because there’s no such thing as a dream draw when you’re in a World Cup,” the former Scotland captain pointed out. “We’re one of four teams competing for the first time in the finals – and I’m pretty sure the majority of teams will want to draw ourselves and the other three.
“I’ve been involved in football a long long time, and there’s very few times in my career that I haven’t got what I deserved, whether that’s as a manager or as a player. I don’t buy the ‘hard luck’ thing.
“The players need to get all the plaudits [for qualifying] because there’s been nothing lucky about it. It has been by hard work, dedication, by playing in the right manner, that’s how we’ve had the success in getting to the World Cup.”
Kerr will be joined by Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay at the draw venue, which is situated on an island on the famous Paris river. Alex Scott, the former England player who is now a television pundit, and Louis Saha are the conductors of what promises to be a glitzy affair.
Among those assisting will be World Cup winners Cindy Cone and Steffi Jones – along with Didier Deschamps, who in the summer became the third man to win the World Cup as a player and manager – Michael Essien and Kaka.
England, now under the direction of Phil Neville, are, like the USA and hosts France, among the top seeds. Kerr has made it known the Old Enemy wouldn’t be the worst Pot 1 option, and if fate takes a hand there would be the opportunity to avenge the 6-0 hiding meted to Anna Signeul’s injury-hit side by England in the opening Euro 2017 group game.
The squad now looks in much better, and more resilient, shape than it was in the Netherlands last summer, and Kerr said: “Everybody connected to the women’s game was disappointed after the Euros.
“To get to the next level we needed to put a new criteria in place, develop a new style of play and be patient with it. It’s credit to the players how much they’ve bought into that.”
The strength in depth among the twelve top seeds can be gauged by the fact that Pot 2 includes Japan, who won the World Cup in 2011 and were beaten finalists three years ago. Norway, who are also previous tournament winners, and Brazil are in Pot 2 as well.