Anna Signeul has announced the Scotland squad for the historic UEFA Women's Euro 2017 tournament to be held in the Netherlands. The announcement had been delayed due to the dispute between the squad and the SFA for equality of respect towards the game.
There are no huge surprises in the squad – it was known that Kim Little and Lizzie Arnot were out of the tournament and that it was likely that Jennifer Beattie would also miss out through injury. But with 22 players picked, out of a possible 23, it is likely that Emma Mitchell has been given time to recover from her injury.
Scotland's campaign begins with against the Auld Enemy England on the 19th July, before playing Portugal four days later. They finish their group against Spain - in a revenge match for the previous Euro qualifying campaign, where a last-minute Spanish goal knocked Scotland out of the play-offs. Before the goal, Scotland was about to qualify on away goals.
This was possibly one of the easiest selections ahead of the tournament. Captain Gemma Fay will go into the tournament as the Number One choice. Fay, who is on 199 caps, moved to Icelandic club Stjarnan to get game-time ahead of the tournament after Lee Alexander moved to Glasgow City and took advantage of Fay's injuries. Having made her debut against the Czech Republic in May 1998, it has been a very long journey to being called up for her first major tournament.
The back-up keepers are Shannon Lynn who plays for Vittsjo GIK and Glasgow City's Lee Alexander, who returned to Scotland after a season with Mallbackens. Both are very strong keepers and will provide comfort for Signeul if Fay picks up an injury. They are also battling to take over as the new Number One after the Euros if as expected, this is Fay's final tournament.
Bristol City's Frankie Brown will probably begin the tournament as the first-choice right-back. She has proven herself to be a good all-round full-back, both defensively and attacking wise – and consistently over the years.
Rachel McLauchlan, who was Hibernian's Player's Player of the Year in 2016, is a versatile player – playing in both right-back and right-winger – and is more of a modern-day attacking full-back.
She is joined by her Hibernian team-mate Kirsty Smith, another exciting attacking full-back who normally plays at left-back, but can also play at right-back. However, it is highly unlikely she will be asked to play there.
There is an additional space in the squad, and presumably, it allows a left-back to be picked if Emma Mitchell doesn't recover from her injury. However, it is not inevitable, and Scotland could have the defensive cover required in the squad (see below) if say, another forward was picked.
Back in January, I would have said that Jennifer Beattie and Rachel Corsie would be the first-choice centre-backs. Unfortunately, Beattie has been ruled out with injuries – and injuries have allowed a couple of new names break into the squad.
Sophie Howard, who plays for the Frauen-Bundesliga side Hoffenheim was eligible for Scotland, despite playing for Germany's Under-20 team. She was an unused substitute as Germany finished runners-up to the USA in the 2012 FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup. Vaila Barsley, the Eskilstuna United defender who played against Glasgow City in the Champions League in 2016. Both of these players have impressed in recent friendlies and gave Scotland more defensive depth – something that was a worry.
Corsie began her career with Aberdeen, before joining Glasgow City in 2008. She spent five years at City, winning numerous trophies and playing in the Women's Champions League. After a spell with Notts County, she moved to America to play for Seattle Reign. She has been an integral part of the Scotland team and her experience of playing some of the best players in the world gives her experience of big-game matches.
Ifeoma Dieke, who captains Damallsvenken side Vittsjö GIK, has had experience of not only playing over 100 times for her country – and playing in some of the best leagues in the world – but she also played in the 2012 Summer Olympics for Great Britain. In her long career, she's played in America, Cyprus and Sweden and made her debut for Scotland back in 2004.
The only centre-back based in Scotland is Hibernian's captain Joelle Murray. A key member of the side that has won the past three domestic cup finals, as well as leading the SWPL 1 at the mid-season break, her reading of the game is very impressive, as well as being a superb leader.
Leanne Crichton was one of the players who had to quickly find herself a club after the demise of Notts County and moved back up to Scotland to rejoin Glasgow City. She probably won't be a 'first-choice' pick, but she will be knocking on the door, especially with the absence of Kim Little. Crichton can be seen as a defensive midfielder, but that should be seen more in the mould of a player looking to dictate the play – rather than an 'enforcer' style player.
There could have been a dilemma over Erin Cuthbert's inclusion if Little had not been injured, due to the fact she would not be able to play in the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship in Northern Ireland. But she's more than deserves to be in the senior squad, continuing to impress since making her senior Scotland debut just over a year ago. After becoming an integral part of the Glasgow City squad, she has made a significant impact at Chelsea in the WSL 1 Spring Series.
As I mentioned above, Scotland does have possible full-back cover in two Glasgow City players. The first is Hayley Lauder, who has often played for Scotland as a left-back, although for her club, she is often deployed as a left-winger – or an attacking midfielder. Anna Signeul will probably prefer to see Lauder play as a left-winger, to provide more defensive solidity when they don't have the ball.
The other is Leanne Ross, who captains her club and has won every single one of their historic ten titles in a row. For Glasgow City, she plays as a right-back, but for Scotland has often been used as a right midfielder/winger. Her ability from set-pieces, especially free-kicks, could prove critical for Scotland.
Another Glasgow City midfielder Jo Love is a veteran of Scotland, winning 175 caps to date. She has a versatility that Signeul can take advantage of: either playing in attacking positions as a right forward as she did earlier in the campaign, or as a defensive midfielder.
Someone who is likely to start against England is Caroline Weir, someone whose development at Liverpool as previously been praised by Anna Signeul. Not only was she named as Liverpool's Player of the Season, as well as the award for their goal of the season, she was named as Vauxhall Scotland's Player of the Year for 2016 – beating stars like Jane Ross and Kim Little. In the recent Spring Series, she finished as the second-top goal scorer in the WSL 1, scoring five goals in eight matches.
Eskilstuna United's Fiona Brown is a skilful forward and has been a bright spot in friendlies since qualifying for the Euros, including assisting the two goals in Scotland's recent win over Romania. Her performances for Glasgow City saw her make the move to Eskilstuna United in the winter and has since scored three goals in ten appearances in the Damallsvensken – including a winning brace against Rosengård. Fiona Brown can play either through the middle or on the wing.
A player also impressing in Europe is Lana Clelland whose being topping the scoring charts in Italy, playing for UPC Tavagnacco. She's maybe not had as many caps as she could have, due to Scotland's strength going forward, but she's definitely an exciting option to bring off the bench.
FC Bayern Munich's Lisa Evans is a player that ex-Glasgow City Head Coach Eddie Wolecki-Black once compared to Thierry Henry. Her pace is something that Scotland will look to utilise, whether she plays on the wing or through the middle.
Christie Murray, who plays for Doncaster Rovers Belles, can either play as a creative midfielder or as a forward. Due to the strength in the centre of midfield, and the likelihood that Scotland will play a 4-4-2 formation, she is probably going to play up front.
One of the first names on the team-sheet will surely be Manchester City's, Jane Ross. Her eight goals helped City win their first ever WSL 1 title – as well as winning the WSL Cup and FA Women's Cup. She has scored 50 goals for Scotland and her ten goals in the qualifying campaign for the Euros meant she was the overall joint-top scorer.
Goalkeepers: Lee Alexander (Glasgow City), Gemma Fay (Glasgow City), Shannon Lyn (Vittsjo GIK)
Defenders: Vaila Barsley (Eskilstuna United), Frankie Brown (Bristol City), Rachel Corsie (Seattle Reign), Ifeoma Dieke (Vittsjo GIK), Sophie Howard (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim), Rachel McLauchlan (Hibernian), Joelle Murray (Hibernian), Kirsty Smith (Hibernian)
Midfielders: Leanne Crichton (Glasgow City), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Lisa Evans (Bayern Munich), Hayley Lauder (Glasgow City), Jo Love (Glasgow City), Leanne Ross (Glasgow City), Caroline Weir (Liverpool)
Forwards: Fiona Brown (Eskilstuna United), Lana Clelland (UPC Tavagnacco), Christie Murray (Doncaster Rovers Belles), Jane Ross (Manchester City)