Scotland squad announced for Denmark double-header friendlies

As Scotland prepares for their debut at a major international tournament, Head Coach Anna Signeul has named her squad for the two friendlies against Denmark at the end of January in Cyprus. The training camp begins on the 16th January, before the first friendly on the 20th which will be played at the GSZ Stadium in Larnaca, with kick-off at 1pm UK time.

Then the second friendly is played on the 23rd January at the Paralimni Municipality Stadium, with the match starting at 9am UK time.

But, there are several questions that need to be answered before UEFA Women's Euro 2017, held in the Netherlands.

Formation Issue

For the majority of the qualification process, Scotland played a 4-2-3-1 formation with a central three of Leanne Crichton, Caroline Weir and Kim Little. As you would expect from the recent returning Arsenal signing, Little was critical to Scotland's creative hub in the qualifiers.

However, there were defensive flaws with the setup that were taken advantage of by Iceland, back in June 2016 when they beat Scotland 4-0.

Scotland went back to the drawing board and moved to a basic 4-4-2 formation with Jane Ross dropping deep to provide defensive cover when Scotland was without the ball, helping them beat Iceland 2-1 in the return fixture.

It was this formation that Scotland played when they were thrashed 7-0 by the Netherlands. Was this down to a bad day at the office, or something more significant?

There is also the issue of 'where to play Kim Little'. She missed the past two games through injury and is a certain starter. If she played in one of the front two positions, then that would mean one of Lisa Evans or Jane Ross would miss out. That would weaken Scotland's attack. Most likely, if the 4-4-2 is retained, she will be played in central midfield.

With time to prepare (six games have been scheduled so far, including the Cyprus Cup), could Scotland experiment with three centre-backs? This has a couple of issues. Scotland's depth at centre-back is hardly deep, and two, where does Little fit in?

I'm not sure how radical Signeul will be. The key for Scotland is for the team to get in the faces of the opponent, stop too many easy crosses getting into the box, and winning their headers. I suspect Scotland will remain with a form of 4-4-2, but if there is a time to experiment, it is now.

Keeping Situation

The keeping situation is all but sewn up for two of the places. Gemma Fay, the Scotland captain and Number One is approaching 200 caps (currently on 195) – and barring injury, she will be between the sticks in the Netherlands.

Number two is Shannon Lynn who has shown in the past to be a more than capable backup keeper.

The question is who will be the Number three keeper. In one regard, this is hardly the most critical of questions, but when you remember it only needs an injury for it to become an issue. 

Rachel Harrison has been called up and hopefully will get a chance in one of the games Whilst she's been more of a back-up keeper for her current club Fortuna Hjorring, she impressed with her time at Spartans. Signeul knows her, having called her up to the squad before.

Currently, you would say that the third spot in the Euros is between her, Lee Alexander and Megan Cunningham.

Defence Sorted

Apart from Hibernian's full-back Kirsty Smith who is out injured, this is the defence you expect Signeul to pick. It's fantastic to see Rachel Corsie return over her own injury which ruled her out of the Scotland internationals against Iceland and the Netherlands and is crucial to Scotland's defensive strengths. At the moment, Scotland's first choice defensive pairing is Corsie and Jennifer Beattie. 

If any of the central defenders misses out in the Euros, the next in line will be most likely one of Hibernian's Emma Brownlie or Siobhan Hunter.

At the moment, the first-choice full-backs are Arsenal's Emma Mitchell and Smith at right-back, so Bristol City's Frankie Brown will most likely get the nod. Glasgow City's Leanne Ross and Hayley Lauder, whilst normally play in more attacking positions, provide further cover at right and left-back respectively.

Midfield Options

Claire Emslie has been called up to the squad after a superb season with Bristol City, where she helped them get promoted as well as winning the FA WSL Goal of the Season Award for her strike against Everton.

With the aforementioned issues over the system, the likelihood is that the greatest experimentation will be regarding with how many midfielders, wingers and forwards will be played.

She has one cap, back in 2013 in a 3-2 win over Iceland, and has become a forward in recent years, so will probably be used on the wings. 

Erin Cuthbert, who recently moved to Chelsea, will be looking to make her first start – with her previous two caps coming as a substitute. Her versatility at Glasgow City showed she can play in any midfield position, but her strength is in the attacking department. 

Jo Love has been used both as a holding midfielder (for club and country) as well as a wide attacker. However, it is more likely that either she or Caroline Weir will be used as a holding midfielder. 

Someone else who should be looked at is Hibernian's Lisa Robertson whose role as a holding midfielder is critical in her club's style of play.

Forwards

Up front, Scotland is strong – including Manchester City's star striker Jane Ross who was the joint top scorer in the Euro qualifiers, but in the squad, there are other exciting options. 

Lisa Evans has played through the middle in the past two matches but has normally played out wide.

Lana Clelland who has impressed for UPC Tavagnacco, topping the scoring charts at the end of 2016, will most likely get a chance to add to her 11 caps and one goal to date.

Lizzie Arnot plays on the wing, and was the joint-top SWPL 1 goalscorer in 2016 – and scored Hibernian's winner in the 2016 SWPL Cup Final.

Fiona Brown has recently moved to Damallsvenskan side Eskilstuna United and had a superb season with Glasgow City has she recovered from a horrific injury which ruled her out for the majority of 2015. 

Someone who has not been selected who probably should be given a chance in one of the friendlies over the coming months is Hibernian's Abigail Harrison who was part of Hibs' attacking three, and scored a stunning goal in the Champions League against Bayern Munich.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Gemma Fay (Glasgow City) 195 caps, Rachel Harrison (Fortuna Hjørring) 0 caps, Shannon Lynn (Vittsjo GIK) 17 caps

Defenders: Jennifer Beattie (Manchester City) 102 caps, Frankie Brown (Bristol City) 77 caps, Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign) 85 caps, Ifeoma Dieke (Vittsjo GIK) 112 caps, Emma Mitchell (Arsenal) 47 caps, Joelle Murray (Hibernian) 38 caps

Midfielders: Leanne Crichton (Notts County) 42 caps, Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea LFC) 2 caps, Claire Emslie (Bristol City) 1 caps, Lisa Evans (FC Bayern München) 52 caps, Hayley Lauder (Glasgow City) 79 caps, Kim Little (Arsenal) 117 caps, Joanne Love (Glasgow City) 172 caps, Christie Murray (Doncaster Rovers Belles) 41 caps, Leanne Ross (Glasgow City) 124 caps, Caroline Weir (Liverpool) 30 caps

Forwards: Lizzie Arnot (Hibernian) 6 caps, Fiona Brown (Eskilstuna United) 9 caps, Lana Clelland (UPC Tavagnacco) 11 caps, Jane Ross (Manchester City) 96 caps

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