Euro 2020 qualifiers: Scotland face pressure games with Portugal & Finland

By Andrew SouthwickBBC Scotland
Claire Emslie (centre) against Albania
Scotland are third in Group E with four games remaining

Scotland cannot afford any more slip-ups over the next few days as they continue their bid to reach the Women's European Championship in 2022.

After defeat last month in Finland, the national team play the reverse fixture at Easter Road on Tuesday after travelling to face Portugal on Friday.

They do so without head coach Shelley Kerr, who is self-isolating after coming into contact with a positive Covid-19 case.

But just how big are these qualifiers? And what is riding on them? BBC Scotland takes a look...

The campaign so far

While Scotland's men had to wait 22 years to qualify for a major finals, the women are aiming for their third in a row.

England are hosting the Euros, which makes it doubly important Scotland are there, and things were looking good after they won their first three games with an aggregate score of 16-0.

But they came unstuck in Helsinki last month, losing 1-0. That leaves Kerr's side third, one point behind Portugal and four adrift of the Finns, who have played a game more.

Scotland's destiny is still very much in their own hands. Two wins would put them top of the group going into their final two matches next year - away to Cyprus and at home to Portugal.

The group winners and three best runners-up qualify directly, while the six further second-placed teams advance to play-offs.

Group E table

What to expect from Portugal?

First up is Friday's trip to Lisbon. With two 1-0 wins over opposition that Scotland have comfortably beaten, the Portuguese have not been overly impressive despite getting points on the board.

However, they did draw 1-1 at home with Finland last year and were denied victory by a last-minute equaliser, so remain dangerous opponents. They are missing Jessica Silva though, who plays for European champions Lyon, because of injury.

Scotland's Chloe Arthur could face her Aston Villa team-mate Diana Silva, who is the second top scorer in the Portuguese squad and has netted already in the group.

Captain Claudia Neto is one to watch, though. The midfielder is currently a Fiorentina team-mate of Scotland's Lana Clelland, who hasn't made the squad this time. Neto, 32, has 19 goals for her country, two of which have been in this campaign.

"Portugal are a growing team," says Portuguese journalist Ines Braga Sampaio. "They are constantly getting better and have some really good youngsters.

"They still depend too much on Neto. But they have Ana Borjes - an attack-minded and skilful right-back - and Ana Capeta, who is a very dangerous player. She's a forward and the top scorer in the Portuguese league just now."

And what about Finland?

Tuesday's game sees the return of former manager Anna Signeul to Scotland. Signeul's Finland have lost just one of their past 11 games - a 3-2 defeat by Croatia.

The Finns, in 30th, are ranked nine places below Scotland. And despite their win last month they will be underdogs, particularly given their hosts welcome back Arsenal trio Kim Little, Lisa Evans and Jen Beattie. All three are likely to be restored to the starting XI.

What they said

Head coach Kerr felt Scotland deserved more in Helsinki, and is confident there won't be a repeat.

She said: "We felt disappointed that we didn't take anything from the game because I think we deserved that. Overall the performances were good.

"We come up against a very competent Portugal team, they will be very tough. It's also hard to manage players in a double-header. But the squad is strong and it's still very much in our hands."

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