Scotland supporters young and old will be keeping a close eye on events in Paris this weekend, as Scotland discovers its opponents for the group stages of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Having secured a spot on the game’s biggest stage for the first time in the team’s history earlier this year, Shelley Kerr’s side will take its place amongst the world’s leading in the highly-anticipated draw, which takes place at the Seine Musicale at 5pm on Saturday evening.
Each of the 24 qualified nations will be drawn into one of six groups, with each group containing four teams.
The seeding for the draw will be confirmed tomorrow, with the top six ranked nations in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings being guaranteed a position in the top tier of seeds.
It is expected that Scotland will be confirmed in pot three, alongside countries such as New Zealand and Italy.
Kerr’s side will be one of four teams making their World Cup debut in France next summer; in addition, Chile, Jamaica and South Africa will also be appearing at their first FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament.
The draw will also determine the venues at which Scotland will play during the group stages, in addition to the dates for each group stage fixture.
Who could Scotland face?
With the crème de la crème of women’s football set to battle it out for the biggest prize in the sport next summer, Scotland will be under no illusions as to the quality of opposition that lies in store.
Defending world champions the USA will once again go into the competition as favourites, having completed an unbeaten 2018 with a 1-0 victory over Kerr’s side in Paisley last month.
Head coach Jill Ellis is able to call upon a plethora of talent, with Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd – scorer of a hat-trick in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Vancouver – and Becky Sauerbrunn just three of the illustrious names likely to be in the USA squad for their title defence next summer.
Host nation France will also present a tough test for their group opponents, with Les Bleues keen to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts two decades earlier by claiming the title on home soil.
A familiar foe comes in the form of Phil Neville’s England, with the Lionesses desperate to improve on their third-place finish four years ago. Having been drawn together in the group stages of UEFA Euro 2017, Kerr and her players are well aware of the threats posed by Nikita Parris, Jill Scott and Toni Duggan to name but a few of the star-studded squad.
The only team to beat the USA in a FIFA World Cup final, Japan remain amongst the world’s top teams seven years on from their victory at Germany 2011. Led by the impressive Saki Kumagai, the Asian champions will once again be a significant presence on the biggest stage of all.
A potential tournament dark horse could come in the form of Australia, with the Matildas having quietly gone about consolidating their place as one of the toughest opponents in the women’s game. With the ever-impressive Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord capable of scoring against the world’s best defences, expect Alen Staijcic’s side to challenge when the tournament kicks off in earnest.
Finally, Brazil will once more be in pursuit of a first FIFA Women’s World Cup crown in France next summer, with the prize having eluded them thus far in the competition’s history. Any team containing the irrepressible Marta, however, has to be considered a serious contender, making the Brazilians a force to be reckoned with.
View from the Scotland camp
Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr: “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for a few months now. It’s really exciting – it seems like it’s been a long time coming.
“After the draw, when you know who you’ve got and where you’ll be based, that’s when the real planning starts. Whatever the draw brings, we’ll set our targets and be as prepared as we can be going into our first World Cup.
“We’re one of four newcomers, so every team will more than likely want to draw one of us. We’ve proved throughout the campaign, though, that we’ve developed as a national team – we’ve been very resilient and shown character in abundance.
“Take away those qualities though, and we’ve also shown a lot of talent. We’ve got some phenomenally talented players in the squad and they’re a fantastic group to work with.
“France put on a real spectacle. I was over at the FIFA Women’s Under-20s World Cup over the summer and it was fantastic. I just think, though, when you mention the World Cup – it still seems a bit surreal at the moment.
“We need to take what was good from UEFA Euro 2017, learn from what was a negative and plan as best we can for the World Cup. We’ve grown as a team since then.”
Scotland forward Fiona Brown: “[Qualification] didn’t really sink in straight away, because we all had to go back to club duty straight away. Now that the draw is coming around though, it’s really starting to hit home.
“We really proved to ourselves and to those watching that we can compete with the world’s best in the USA game. We created chances and we matched them for the vast majority of the match. We can take huge belief from that.
“We’ve shown that we can give anyone a tough game and we create chances against any team we play. We also a real belief and mindset in the squad that is hugely difficult to play against.
“A Scottish trait is to never give up and we’re a team that really lives by that – we’re improving all the time.”
Where to watch
The draw for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place on Saturday evening at 5pm. Scotland supporters can watch on BBC Two and online, with Jen Beattie joining the presenting team as a pundit. You can also follow the draw on FIFA.com, as well as keep up to date on events as they happen via the official @ScotlandNT Twitter account.