My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
So, another Cyprus Cup is over with England lifting the trophy with a 1-0 victory over Canada. In this blog, I will look back at both Scotland’s and England’s tournament.
Scotland came into this year’s tournament from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the 2015 World Cup – losing to the Netherlands in the Play-off Semi-Finals. They would have seen the tournament as the first step in their aim to qualify for the 2017 European Championships – which has been increased from twelve teams to sixteen, increasing the chances of qualification.
Group A included Canada, Italy and South Korea – all above the Scots in the World Rankings, however Italy and South Korea are the type of countries they need to beat to progress on the World Stage.
Their campaign began with their most challenging tie – Canada. The Canadians were the most successful side in the tournaments history, winning it three times – and only once did they fail to make the final (2014). Canada won 2-0, thanks to goals from Jessie Fleming and Christine Sinclair. The Scots played well, but they never came close to scoring.
Next came Italy, a game Scotland would have been confident in winning. But things started badly when Italy went 2-0 up through a Cristiana Girelli brace – with her second coming in the 67th minute. Scotland fought back though, first with Emma Mitchell’s goal and then Kim Little equalised in the 80th minute. With Scotland looking like they might even be able to snatch a remarkable comeback victory, Stefania Tarenzi dealt the heart-breaking killer blow with a 90th minute winner.
Scotland’s final group game was against South Korea, and for the first time in this year’s tournament, they took the lead. Fiona Brown was fouled in the box, and Kim Little calmly converted the penalty. But in the 34th minute, South Korea equalised when Yeo Min-ji headed in from a corner. Despite dominating the final half an hour, and coming close most notably with Jo Love’s header, it took until the 89th minute to get their dramatic winner. Hayley Lauder’s brilliant cross picked out Christie Murray who made no mistake.
These results meant Scotland finished third in their group, meaning they had to play in the 7th placed round against Netherlands. This gave them a chance for revenge after the Dutch had denied them the chance to qualify for the 2015 World Cup – and it was a one-sided victory for the Scots. They went 2-0 up through two Kim Little goals – first when she round the keeper, her second came when the Dutch keeper dropped a cross, and she smashed the ball into the net. Against the run of play, the Netherlands pulled a goal back when Anouk Hoogendijk headed in from a free-kick. However, in the 92nd minute Kim Little secured her hat-trick as once again she rounded the keeper to score.
Overall, I think Scotland can be pleased with their tournament. It is often hard to judge this sort of tournament, partly because it is in pre-season, and partly because there is so much rotation. But they have shown they can compete and beat with the teams above them in the world rankings, and this is a good first step towards qualification for the 2017 European Championships. And once again, Kim Little has shown her importance to Scotland, as she finished as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals.
Scotland’s Cyprus Cup Games
Scotland 0-2 Canada – Group A
Italy 3-2 Scotland – Group A
Scotland 2-1 South Korea – Group A
Scotland 3-1 Netherlands – Seventh Place Match
England are building up towards their 2015 World Cap campaign – their first game is on the 9th June against France. And although the Cyprus Cup is a pre-season friendly tournament, it did allow Mark Sampson and his England squad to get used to the tournament atmosphere, as well as playing several important games over a short period.
England were in Group A and the highest ranked team (6th), but there was no doubt that Australia and the Netherlands would pose them numerous problems – ranked 10th and 11th in the world respectively.
Their Cyprus Cup campaign was against the group’s lowest ranked side, Finland (23rd), and England began in style. The Lionesses took the lead when Alex Greenwood’s cross found Lianne Sanderson at the far post who headed in. In the 66th minute, they doubled their lead with Jess Clarke set up Eniola Aluko who scored from 10 yards. The impressive Clarke then got herself onto the scoresheet in the 83rd minute. The only blemish came in the 89th minute, when Gemma Bonner fouled Annika Kukkonen in the box, and received a straight red card. The Finnish captain, Maija Saari scored from the spot, but it would only be a consolation goal.
The Lionesses’ next game was against Australia, and things started brilliantly for England as they took the lead in the 8th minute through Jodie Taylor’s angled drive – her first international goal for England. And then it was 2-0, and once again the goal came from Taylor – this time through a fabulous curled effort. It would take until the 83rd minute for the Portland Thorns striker to get her deserved hat-trick. She capitalised on an Aussie defensive mix-up to score into an empty net.
Their final group game was against the Netherlands, and for the first time in the 2015 Cyprus Cup, England fell behind. A right-wing cross picked out Anna Miedema who scored from close range. But when England equalised, it was through the tournament’s best goal. Eniola Aluko picked up the ball on the right-wing, cut inside and then progressed to beat four Netherlands defenders, breaking into the box before calmly scoring. This was Aluko’s 19th goal for England in her past 27th internationals. England won their group, and therefore went through to the 1st Placed Match.
They met Canada who were the pre-tournament favourites. They had won Group B with three victories and had yet to concede a goal. This was also the third time England had met Canada in the Cyprus Final, and like the previous two, England were victorious. Lianne Sanderson scored the game’s only game with a great finish in the 67th minute.
Although winning Cyprus Cup is a positive sign, it is not necessarily a statement of intent. England won the 2013 Cyprus Cup, winning their group with 7 points and then beating Canada 1-0 – yet, they finished bottom of their group in the 2013 European Championships. Nevertheless, as a buildup towards the World Cup, it is an important first step. Their next test is their final friendly, against China in April – the Chinese are ranked 13th in the World. Get a good result in that match, then they will arrive in Canada full of confidence.
England’s Cyprus Cup Games
Finland 1-3 England – Group B
Australia 0-3 England – Group B
Netherlands 1-1 England – Group B
Canada 0-1 England – Final
Sixth: Czech Republic
Tenth: South Africa
Eleventh: South Korea