Scotland advance to next round despite France defeat

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Scotland advanced into the next round of qualifying for the Women’s Under-17 European Championship, but had to settle for second place in Group 6 after losing 4-0 to France at Ainslie Park.
After convincing wins over Croatia and Kazakhstan earlier in the week, Scotland had entered their final round-robin match against fellow group leaders France full of confidence.
But after conceding an early goal from a corner, Scotland looked despondent and were overran in the first half by an excellent French side, who added three more goals to lead 4-0 before half time.
Despite battling hard in the second half, there was no way back for Scotland but the experience of facing one of Europe’s top sides will undoubtedly be beneficial in the next round of their qualifying campaign.
Scotland created their best chance of the first half in the opening minutes of the game. Elena Santoyo Brown did well to press the French defence into making a mistake before stealing the ball away from centre back Emeline Saint Georges. Brown then cut into the right side of the box on the but couldn’t squeeze her near post shot past the goalkeeper.
Playing out from the back was a tactic that France continued to employ throughout the game but despite their best efforts to press them and win back possession, Scotland couldn’t get close to them. The French were moving the ball too quickly.
France capitalised on their dominance in the 7th minute. A corner from the right was swung in by France’s creative midfielder Selma Bacha and met by defender Maelle Lakrar who rose highest to head down and into the bottom left corner.
From there, France had numerous chances to double their lead. First, striker Melvine Malard was unlucky to watch a dipping volley from a bouncing ball drift wide of the left post. Then Scotland defender Leah Eddie had to do well to clear Bacha’s dangerous low cross from under her own crossbar. From the resulting corner, Eddie again was called upon to clear a free header off the line.
Scotland hadn’t been in the game but were handed a good chance to test the French defence when they were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position after 25 minutes. From the left side, captain Amy Muir delivered a low, testing cross into the box. It only needed touch to divert the cross over the line, but instead it bounced up into the arms of goalkeeper Charline Favier.
France doubled their lead only minutes later. Again it was from a corner and again it was Bacha who delivered from the left side. It was almost a carbon copy of the first goal. This time, however, it was Malard who rose highest to head the ball into the bottom left corner.
There was only 10 minutes left in the first half, but France still found time to add two more goals. On both occasions Bacha was the creator and Malard was the finisher. There wasn’t a lot that Scotland could do about France’s third. Bacha was released down the lead with a ball over the top and had time and space to fire a low ball across the six yard box. The cross was well judged, and the onrushing Malard only had to position her foot to direct the ball into the roof of the net.
 Malard completed her hat trick on the stroke of half time. This time Bacha picked the ball up on the half way line. Sensing Malard’s run, Bacha played a perfectly weighted ball behind the Scotland defence. Malard had the pace to reach the ball first and then had the composure to finish past Kiera Gibson.

To their credit, Scotland came out for the second half and were the better team. They didn’t let their heads go down and were unlucky not to score on at least a couple of occasions. Morgan Cross, especially, never gave up and the striker acted as Scotland’s outball in the second half as she was always willing to chase a ball over the top.

Her best chance of the game came in the opening minutes of the second half. A nice through ball by Michaela McAlonie behind the French defence released Cross who just managed to get on the end of it. Substitute goalkeeper Lucie Esnault had got off her line quickly, however, and arrived at the edge of the box just in time to smother Cross’ poked effort.

Cross, and the rest of the Scotland attack, would have created more chances had it not been for France’s excellent defence. The did force another error from France’s defence as the game entered its final 10 minutes. Substitute Abby Callaghan did well to win the ball high up the pitch and break forward. Faced with a one on one, Callaghan, rather than shooting, attempted to square the ball to Cross. The pass was blocked by a covering defender and with it, the chance was gone.

Satisfied with their 4-0 lead, France saw the game out. In the final minute of the game, the visitors had their first shot of the second half, illustrating Scotland’s dominance in the second half. In reality though, the game was over at half time.

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