Scotland to take risks in Belarus as they seek qualification

Scotland national coach Anna Signeul
Scotland national coach Anna Signeul
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Anna Signeul says she and her players will try to finally give Scottish football a boost when they play Belarus in their penultimate Euro 2017 qualifier in Minsk this evening.

Anything other than three points would accentuate the doubts lingering after Friday’s 4-0 defeat against Group 1 top seeds Iceland. That performance was sandwiched by Gordon Strachan’s side losing to Italy and France and a characteristic of all three games was that the opposition goalkeepers were barely tested.

“The most important thing is that we are attacking in numbers against Belarus,” Signeul, said. “We need to be brave, we need to take risks.”

The reward for a win will almost certainly be automatic qualification for next summer’s European Championship in the Netherlands – although depending on results elsewhere that may not be confirmed until September.

The obvious cause for optimism is that Scotland won the corresponding game 7-0 at Fir Park in October. The goals came from Jane Ross (2), Jo Love (2), Caroline Weir, Rachel Corsie and Lisa Evans.

Corsie is a doubt tonight because of a foot injury picked up against the Icelanders, but Liverpool’s Weir, who came on as a second half substitute for Leanne Crichton, did enough to merit a start in any event.

Belarus have little to commend them other than a 2-0 away win over Group 1 stragglers Macedonia; otherwise they have lost 13 of their last 14 games. They did, however, manage to contain England to just three goals when they hosted them in a World Cup qualifier two years ago.

Today’s game, at FC Minsk Stadium, is again being played on an artificial surface and Signeul is concerned that the home side will refuse her request to water it.

“With the new rules the home team has the last say,” the Scotland coach said. “I don’t think they will water it and that means the surface will be slow.

“I expect them to play like they did against Iceland when I saw them here in April. They were sitting deep and trying to counter. They don’t have a star in the team but they definitely have some good players.”

Signeul will definitely be without Arsenal left back Emma Mitchell. She was replaced in the squad by former Hibs player Chloe Arthur after injuring her knee at Falkirk Stadium.