Could Scotland create history at the Women's World Cup?
Scotland aiming for qualification to the knockout phase
By Charles Paterson
Last Updated: 13/06/19 2:59pm
As Scotland prepare for a key clash with Japan at the Women's World Cup, Sky Sports News' Charles Paterson says optimism is increasing among Shelley Kerr's side...
After the heat and hype of Nice, Scotland are recuperating in the cooler climes of Rennes. The squad's World Cup journey is now fully up and running, but where it leads next will be dictated by what happens in the next few days.
Friday's game against Japan looms large, and with it comes opportunity. The Japanese don't appear to be the force which reached the final four years ago, and not even close to the side that won it all in 2011.
An opening draw with outsiders Argentina raised eyebrows, as well as questions; is this Japanese side there to be beaten? Are Argentina a more difficult prospect than first thought? Could Scotland, here at their first World Cup, beat both?
Shelley Kerr and her team have stated from the outset that their objective was to qualify from Group D. The realistic goal was to finish third, beat the lowest ranked side in Argentina and keep their fingers crossed that they progress as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Although publicly the message from the squad is that the complexion of the group hasn't changed, second place could now be attainable.
If Scotland were to finish third in Group D, and gain one of those four qualifying slots, daunting match-ups await against either Germany or host nation France.
A second-placed finish would set up the prospect of a match against Canada (who Scotland narrowly lost to at the Algarve Cup in March) or the Netherlands - but with an extra two days' rest.
Sunday's 2-1 defeat to England, while perhaps expected, was not damaging. The media attention focused on Scotland's first ever Women's World Cup match, and the derby atmosphere that surrounded it placed a weight of pressure on the players.
With temperatures touching 28 degrees at kick-off in Nice, it was a draining experience to watch, never mind play in. Kim Little described a feeling of being overwhelmed by the occasion - a telling comment from a player rated as one of the world's best.
The distractions around the England match have been put aside since Scotland flew north west to Brittany, where they are staying in a rural chateau surrounded by horses, goats and chickens.
Familiar weather has welcomed them - a drop in temperature alongside intermittent rain storms. Two days rest have included cycling, darts and jigsaw puzzles. During a World Cup, mental fatigue can be as problematic as physical ailments.
This squad have forged a close bond as they've progressed up the world rankings in the last few years, but over the next week everything positive they've achieved in that time must be put to good use on the biggest stage of all.
The chance to become the first senior Scotland side to reach the knockout stages of a major tournament is in front of them. If Kerr's team play to their potential and can hold their nerve, legendary status awaits them.
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