Norway v Scotland
Thursday, 17 January 2019, kick-off 5pm (UK time)
La Manga, Spain
Scotland kick-off 2019 in earnest on Thursday, as Shelley Kerr’s side take on fellow FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers Norway in the Spanish resort of La Manga.
With all roads leading to this summer’s tournament in France, the fixture represents an opportunity for players to stake an early claim to a place in Kerr’s World Cup squad, with the countdown well and truly on to Scotland’s debut on the world’s biggest stage.
Having impressed in a narrow 1-0 defeat to world champions the USA in their previous outing, Scotland will be looking to build on that performance against their Scandinavian opponents as they look to make the most of their winter training camp.
Norway will present a stern test for Kerr’s squad, however, with the 1995 world champions also looking to build momentum ahead of the World Cup finals.
Indeed, Scotland will be under no illusions as to the ability their opponents possess, having succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to the Norwegians in La Manga twelve months ago.
Bristol City striker Lucy Graham has been rewarded for a strong run of form with a return to the international setup, with the 22-year-old having won her only cap to date in Kerr’s first match in charge of the SWNT in September 2017.
Graham is joined in making a return to international duty by Spartans goalkeeper Rachel Harrison, who receives her first call-up in two years following an injury to Lee Alexander, and Abbi Grant, the new Anderlecht signing receiving a call-up after Lisa Evans was forced to withdraw.
Emma Mitchell and Sophie Howard join Alexander and Evans in missing out due to injury, with Kim Little continuing her comeback from a broken leg with Arsenal and Rachel Corsie unavailable due to club commitments with Canberra United.
Norway will be unable to call upon the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg, the Lyon striker having made herself unavailable for international selection following UEFA Euro 2017.
What to expect from Norway
World champions in 1995 and Olympic gold medallists in 2000, Norway is a country with a rich heritage in the women’s game.
Led by Martin Sjogren, the 13th ranked side in the world went unbeaten in their final six matches of their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign to top their group, edging out UEFA Euro 2017 champions the Netherlands in the process.
Having failed to make the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup since 2007, 2019 marks an important year for Norway as they look to recapture the glories of years gone by.
Miss it earlier?— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) January 4, 2019
✅ @JustLuc_@Kerr5Shelley has named her #SWNT squad to take on Norway and Iceland at our January training camp in La Manga.
➡️ Full story: https://t.co/4Iinix1M3v #OurGirlsOurGame pic.twitter.com/HXqH7eFZ0n
Scotland defender Frankie Brown: “It’s so exciting. The last time we were here was almost exactly a year ago and qualifying for the World Cup, whilst still our aim, was just a dream. A year on, having achieved that, being back here preparing for the tournament is very exciting.
“For the squad as a whole, having the experience of the Euros was really important. It’s a different feeling when you’re preparing for a major tournament, but there are enough of us that experienced that feeling at the Euros that we’re able to use that.
“A lot of the youngsters that went to the Euros have now matured and are having really great club seasons. The likes of Erin [Cuthbert] and Caroline [Weir] make it a really exciting time for us.
“I’ve been around the squad for a long time but haven’t played a lot, so playing against the USA gave me a lot of confidence. The performance by everyone that night was fantastic. We rattled them a wee bit and I think they underestimated us. It was brilliant for us and we can take real confidence from that game.
“It’s important that you never take anything for granted. The best way to come into these camps is with a completely open mind to whatever happens – you can’t let anything get you down. You have a different perspective when you’ve played for a bit longer. You realise that you need to enjoy it every time you step on that pitch and compete.”
“We played Norway this time last year, which was a tough game. It’ll be interesting to see how we’ve developed over the last year. We’ve got a few injuries so the squad will be a bit different, but I’d be hoping that we’ve improved and that we can cause them a few problems.”
How to follow the match
Live updates will be provided on the @ScotlandNT Twitter account.