Euro 2022: A night when Scotland simply must not lose to Finland

By Andrew SouthwickBBC Scotland
Lisa Evans in the defeat to Portugal
Scotland have lost back-to-back games away to Finland and Portugal

Before they travelled to Portugal, Scotland knew they could not afford any more slip-ups in their quest to reach the Women's European Championship in 2022. But then they lost in Lisbon. Now, even three wins from three may not be enough, although that would at least guarantee a play-off place.

After defeat last month in Finland, it is back-to-back losses for Shelley Kerr's side with a place at the Euros in serious jeopardy.

They host Finland at Easter Road on Tuesday (19:30 GMT) in a match in which defeat could end their qualification hopes. And manager Kerr will have to anxiously watch from home because of being forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with a positive Covid-19 case.

It is a huge night for Scotland. Can they still reach the finals?

Group favourites foundering

Group E

The nine group winners and three best runners-up qualify automatically for the finals in England, with the six other sides finishing second going into a play-off.

Scotland are the seeded team in Group E and began as favourites to secure top spot in the group. But they currently sit third.

After starting the group with thumping wins over Albania and Cyprus, and with an aggregate score of 16-0 after three wins from three, they are now one defeat away from the exit door.

They came unstuck in Helsinki last month, losing 1-0 to former boss Anna Signeul's Finland. And, on Friday, they went down 1-0 to Portugal.

A win might not be enough

After playing Finland, in February Scotland are away to Cyprus before completing the group at home to Portugal.

Even a win at against Finland does not put winning the group back in Scotland's own hands. Finland would still lead Scotland by a point and, providing they win both of their remaining games (away to Cyprus and home to Portugal), Signeul's side will win the group.

Likewise, if Portugal beat Albania and win in Finland when the sides meet in February, Scotland could not catch them either, even if they win their final group game at home to the Portuguese.

So Scotland need to win all three remaining games and hope Finland and Portugal draw when they meet. The two sides drew 1-1 in Lisbon earlier in the group, with Finland scoring a last-minute equaliser.

Draw and they need favours

Scotland manager Shelley Kerr
Shelley Kerr will miss the Finland game after being told to self-isolate

A draw with Finland would not switch off the lights on qualification just yet, but it would leave Scotland in serious trouble.

Portugal are expected to beat Albania on the same night, meaning Scotland would be six points behind them and four behind Finland. Kerr's side could no longer win the group and finishing as one of the best runners-up is likely to be impossible too depending on how other results go, leaving a play-off as their only route to the finals.

With Finland highly likely to win away to Cyprus, who have lost every game in the group to date, Scotland would instead be left praying for a Finland win over Portugal to set up a final-day showdown with Portugal. A 1-0 or a two-goal win would then at least secure second place and a play-off spot.

Lose and Scotland's only hope would be that Portugal don't win at home to Albania. They will know the result of that game before they kick off against Finland.

If Portugal slip up, Scotland could still catch them in second as long as Signeul's current team do her old side a favour.

Play-off heartache

It might well be that Scotland have to go through a two-legged play-off to reach the finals in England, but it is not a route in which they have had any joy previously.

Three times they have been in the play-offs and three times it has been painful.

In 2008, they finished third in their European Championship qualifying group but were one of the fourth-best third-placed sides. They lost 3-2 at home to Russia and, despite a gallant 2-1 away win in the second leg, they went out on away goals.

Their bid to reach Euro 2013 hurt even more. They finished second in their group - their only defeats coming against red-hot favourites France.

In the play-off, they drew 1-1 with Spain at Hampden, with goalkeeper Gemma Fay saving a crucial late penalty, but in the away leg, it was as cruel an exit as they ever could have suffered.

Scotland led in normal time and extra time, but both times were pegged back. They were still heading through on away goals when Spain were awarded a late, late penalty. Fay saved it and Scotland thought they had made it through, only to concede with the last kick of the game in the 122nd minute.

Two years later and their hopes of reaching their first World Cup relied on a play-off after finishing second behind Sweden, but they were paired with the Netherlands, losing 4-1 on aggregate.

Kerr and her squad might have to rely on overcoming their play-off blues to reach the finals in England.

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