Two years on from their first appearance at the European Championships, Scotland’s women took their bow on football’s greatest stage – the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Held in France and featuring 24 national teams, the competition was broadcast across the globe and, between June 7 and July 7, attracted a combined audience of over 120 billion. A Video Assistant Referee (VAR) would also be introduced for the first time – with very mixed results, particularly for Scotland.
The World Cup was viewed as an opportunity to show the progress that had been made in women’s football over the past two decades in Scotland, although the draw pitted them against two of the competition’s strongest teams, England and Japan, in Group D.
Much like EURO 2017, the Scots would remain in contention until the very last game.
England 2 Scotland 1
Allianz Riviera, Nice — June 9 2019
Scotland had been soundly beaten 6-0 by England at EURO 2017 and while this opening Group D match again ended in defeat, the margins were far tighter. Both sides found openings as chances as play ebbed back and forth, until England received a sudden and unexpected advantage in the 14th minute. Fran Kirby’s cross clearly hit Scotland defender Nicola Docherty’s outstretched arm, but the connection was obviously unintentional. The protests were of little consequence to Nikita Parris, who duly rifled her spot kick into the top corner. England went on to dominate the remainder of the first half and, with Scotland struggling to clear their lines, doubled their lead through their all-time record goalscorer, Ellen White. Scotland recovered and were the stronger side after the restart, scoring through Claire Emslie. However, with 10 minutes remaining, they failed to find the leveller.
Japan 2 Scotland 1
Roazhon Park, Rennes — June 14 2019
The next match, against a Japan side sitting seventh in the FIFA World Rankings, followed a similar pattern. Playing a patient and measured passing game, Scotland’s opponents dominated the first half. Mana Iwabuchi scored from the edge of the penalty box in the 23rd minute and then, with half time approaching, Japan doubled their lead after another VAR call. This time the officials spotted a push in the penalty box by Rachel Corsie and Yuika Sugasawa made it 2-0. Like the game against England, Scotland enjoyed a better second half. Erin Cuthbert hit the post before Scotland made it 2-1 thanks to a screamer from Lana Clelland. However, despite two defeats, Scotland still had everything to play for in the final group game. England were through to the knockout stages with two wins, with Japan comfortably in second place. However, Scotland could still take third spot with a win and progress on goal difference.
Scotland 3 Argentina 3
Parc des Princes, Paris — June 19 2019
Scotland walked out on France’s greatest stage, the Parc des Princes, facing a different kind of pressure in their final group match. Underdogs against the Japanese and English, they were now favourites against an Argentina still looking for their first point and first goal in Group D. This time there was no slow burn for the Scots. Kim Little scored in the first half and Jenny Beattie and Erin Cuthbert then made it 3-0 after the interval.
Scotland were cruising as the game entered the final 15 minutes. Then Mili Menéndez scored and sent a tremor through the ranks. Four minutes later Lee Alexander stretched to reach a speculative shot which hit the crossbar, then her arm and crossed the line to make it 3-2. With seconds remaining, in the 94th minute, Sophie Howard slid in to concede a penalty. Alexander saved a lacklustre first attempt but then VAR came into play again, judging that the keeper had left her line before the ball was struck. Flo Bonsegundo then tucked away the retake to make it 3-3.