Scotland can be among 'very best in Europe', says Anna Signeul

By Chris McLaughlinBBC Scotland in Cyprus
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Scotland head coach Anna Signeul
Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has added her support to Scotland head coach Anna Signeul

Anna Signeul firmly believes Scotland can become one of the best women's football nations in Europe and hopes Euro 2017 is where it all begins.

The head coach has steered the Scots to their first major finals in the Netherlands this summer.

And the Swede thinks Scotland's traditions and passions make fertile ground for the game to flourish.

"The advantage you have in Scotland is that you are football daft," Signeul told BBC Scotland.

"If I look at other countries, they maybe have a sporting tradition - across a number of different sports - but in Scotland football is massive.

"I have always thought that this country has the chance to go on to become one of the very best in Europe because of that tradition.

'Need the wheel to start spinning'

"People go and watch; they listen on their radios; they are very technically aware of how the game is played and so you have a real understanding because women's football is a real tactical sport."

The Scots are ranked 21st by world governing body Fifa, with 11 European rivals ahead of them.

There is no professional domestic league, but Signeul, who is stepping down to take over Finland after the tournament, thinks there is huge potential.

Signeul came to Scotland in 2005 after managing the Swedish international youth squads but says the different cultures should work in Scotland's favour.

"People in Scotland don't go and have a coffee with their friends on a Friday night - they go and play fives," said the 55-year-old, whose squad are being funded to go full-time ahead of the Euro finals through a package agreed between the Scottish Football Partnership, Sport Scotland and energy firm SSE.

Hibs' Joelle Murray, Nicola Sturgeon and Glasgow City's Leanne Ross
Scotland are being funded to go full-time ahead of the Euro 2017 finals

"That wouldn't happen in Sweden, for example."

Now she thinks media attention from Euro 2017 should be harnessed to grow the game.

"If you get the interest then the resources and sponsorship could follow - you just need the wheel to start spinning," she added.

"Fifteen years ago, France had hardly any football players and now they are one of the best in the world with a professional league.

"To get things started, when we are at the Euros, we just need to make Scotland proud."

In their final competitive games before the tournament, Scotland begin their Cyprus Cup campaign on Wednesday against New Zealand, with Austria and the Republic of Korea also in their group.

Scotland's women celebrate a goal in Euro 2017 qualifying
The Scots are gearing up for the Cyprus Cup

At Euro 2017, Scotland open against England, with Spain and Portugal in their section.

Signuel is reluctant to discuss her departure.

"I think, in the end, I will be nostalgic," she said. "Maybe that's why I can't really think about it or talk about it.

"It's been 12 fantastic years, but for now, I just want to focus on this and then in August I can cry."

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