Albania v Scotland: What has changed for Shelley Kerr's side?

Scotland team celebrating
Scotland qualified for their first World Cup finals with a 2-1 win on their last visit to Albania
Women's Euro 2021 Championship qualifier: Albania v Scotland
Venue: Elbasan Arena, Elbasan Date: Friday, 8 November Kick-off: 17:10
Coverage: Watch on BBC Alba, listen on BBC Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online

The call to prayer echoed across the city nestled in the shadows of the Albanian Alps, its gentle din permeating the bustling market streets around Loro Borici Stadium.

By the time the noise had stopped in Shkoder, the only rumble to be heard was that of Shelley Kerr's team rejoicing after securing a place at their first World Cup finals with a narrow 2-1 victory over the country ranked 54 places below them.

This modest setting provided the unlikely backdrop for a moment of Scottish football history. Now, 14 months on, Kerr takes her team back to Albania on Euro 2021 qualifying duty, but what has changed over that time for the Scotland head coach and her squad?

The side that made history

The core of the squad has remained the same since former coach Anna Signeul handed over the reins after Euro 2017.

A glance at the number of caps some of the players boast tells you many have played a significant role for a prolonged period. Kerr even shared a pitch with some of them.

Midfielder Kim Little had made 126 appearances for her country when she scored in Albania, striker Jane Ross 119 when she netted the winner.

In fact, the starting XI in their final France 2019 qualifier had 707 caps between them.

While many of those familiar faces remain, some like Jo Love and Joelle Murray, are not making the journey to Albania.

In with the new

With the likes of playmaker Erin Cuthbert, winger Claire Emslie and first-choice goalkeeper Lee Alexander having risen to prominence in the most recent campaign, Kerr has relied upon a familiar group of players.

But, in the background, new talent has been regularly invited into camp for a closer look.

Birmingham City forward Abbi Grant, Everton midfielder Lucy Graham and Glasgow City winger Rachel McLauchlan have all been involved.

Bristol City forward Abbi Harrison, with three caps, has just been called up this week, while Tottenham Hotspur defender Hannah Godfrey could make her debut in Albania.

Abbi Harrison
Bristol City's Abbi Harrison has only three caps but travels to Albania

It is clear Kerr has taken fresh options, but she also has her tried-and-tested players to ensure Scotland get the job done after opening the campaign with an 8-0 win over Cyprus.

The call-up of West Ham United striker Martha Thomas, 23, grabbed attention before she was forced to withdraw with injury, Kerr describing her as a "versatile player" with "good leadership qualities as well".

Her replacement is also intriguing as uncapped Manchester United forward Kirsty Hanson, 21, comes into the fold.

Closer to home, Hibernian's versatile Jamie-Lee Napier is another Kerr has been keen to try out.

Cuthbert, Little & Weir still driving force - analysis

BBC Scotland Euro 2017 & World Cup 2019 pundit Steven Thompson

Some of the changes in the squad are due to injury - Fiona Brown. Lana Clelland, Zoe Ness, Hayley Lauder. However, Shelley is making subtle tweaks to the squad in leaving out some of the older members of the squad, such as Murray and Love.

Cuthbert, Little and Caroline Weir will be the driving force behind what we do and having a settled pairing in central defence - Rachel Corsie and Jennifer Beattie - has been a big help.

Shelley will have learned a lot from the World Cup about how she wants the team to play and what she will do differently this time around.

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