Scotland Women’s Under-17 head coach Pauline MacDonald was delighted with the efforts of her players following the team’s successful campaign in the UEFA Qualifying Round earlier this month.
MacDonald’s side progressed from a tough group comprising of Lithuania, Slovakia and hosts Poland, and will now await the draw for the Elite Round at the end of November.
Successfully navigating that stage would see MacDonald’s team qualify for the UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship next summer, a tournament not reached by a Scottish side since 2014.
Pauline, how pleased are you that your side has reached the Elite Round?
The whole squad is obviously delighted. We knew it would be a tough group, with three very different opponents in terms of their styles of play. Each team brought a different physical challenge as well, so the important thing for us was to get points on the board early on.
We were delighted with the win against Lithuania, and we probably should have won by more were it not for a bit of complacency that set in during the second half. Slovakia was a very tough game – they started really well and put us under pressure early on. We managed to deal with that well and come away with a point though. We always knew that it would be difficult against Poland in the last game, but across the 10 days we showed real progress as a group.
These qualification phases get tougher every year – everyone is improving and has access to more in the way of resources year on year.
Miss it earlier?— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) 10 October 2018
Scotland Women's Under-17s have qualified for the Elite Round Stage of @UEFAWomensEURO Under-17s qualification! 🙌
Congratulations to @paulineedi and the squad. #SCOW17s #OurGirlsOurGame pic.twitter.com/maf991cANr
Was there anything that really caught your eye from a coaching point of view?
What pleased me in particular is that, especially in our first two games, we defended really well. If you look at our last four games, we’ve only conceded one goal from open play, so that was a real positive. We defended set plays really well, and although we didn’t score as many as we possibly should have, we were creating chances.
We still have a lot of work to do, but there were definitely a lot of positives to take away from the group.
What lessons have you learned from last year, and what will be the main areas to work on ahead of the Elite Round?
I’d like to hope we get an easier draw than we did last year at this stage – we had three big hitters in France, Sweden and Finland, and Finland ended up going on to finish third at the finals.
In terms of what our players need to do, they need to reflect back on the Poland game. We had a good period of domination in the first half, but we got blown away in the second. Utilising the time we have now to get fitter is going to be a big thing for us.
I also think there’s a variation across the group in terms of training, so the players need to take responsibility for themselves over this next period and work on the areas we’ve highlighted for them. If they do that, we’ll all come back together in January in a much better state and be ready to hit the ground running.
Scotland 2-1 Lithuania
Thursday, 4 October
Stadion Miejski, Starogard Gdanski.
Scotland 0-0 Slovakia
Sunday, 7 October
Stadion Miejski, Malbork.
Scotland 0-3 Poland
Wednesday, 10 October
Stadion Miejski, Malbork.