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2019 Women's World Cup team previews: Scotland

With the men having last reached a major tournament in 1998, Scotland is long overdue in bringing its magnificent support to the international stage. This is Scotland's first appearance at the Women's World Cup, but what the team lacks in experience at the top table, it will make up for in passion, skill and the threat of being an unknown quantity.

How they got here

Scotland topped its group in the qualifiers, but it all came down to the final match away at Albania. Scotland and Switzerland were locked on the same number of points and knew they had to better the Swiss' result to qualify automatically. Scotland managed to grind out a 2-1 win with world-class Kim Little grabbing the first goal and Jane Ross scoring the winner with a header. It meant Scotland qualified for the World Cup for the first time and saw the country end a 21-year wait for an appearance on this stage.

Strengths/weaknesses

Scotland has quality and experience, including one of the world's best midfielders in Kim Little, while Jennifer Beattie and Emma Mitchell will ensure a watertight defense. Forward Erin Cuthbert and Caroline Weir will look to cause all sorts of mischief in the opposition's defense. Scotland will also take huge heart from its 1-0 win over Brazil in April, which proved to everyone on the team, as well as anyone else, they can mix it with the best.

But what will challenge them most is their lack of World Cup experience. While this could be used as a boost to morale through excitement and lack of expectation, they will need to settle in quickly and ensure they don't expunge all their energy and focus against England in their group opener.

Money stat: 35

Scotland will become the 35th nation to compete in the Women's World Cup when it faces England on June 9 in Nice. Scotland is one of four teams making its debut in the global gathering, and with South Africa and Jamaica in contention before the auld rivals kick off in Stade de Nice, Scotland will etch its name in the tournament's rich history as team No. 35 with Chile following on June 11.

Players to watch

Keep an eye on Erin Cuthbert and Caroline Weir, while supporters will be delighted to have the hugely influential Emma Mitchell, Jennifer Beattie and Kim Little back having missed the 2017 Euros. Beattie and Mitchell bring a wealth of experience in defense, but Arsenal playmaker Little is the team's heartbeat. She is widely regarded as one of the world's finest players and has overcome her fair share of adversity to be in France, having battled back from a yearlong absence with an ACL injury and a fractured fibula at the end of last year. She was voted MVP in the National Women's Soccer League awards back in 2014 when she was at Seattle Reign FC. Little has the ability to light this World Cup up so keep an eye on her.

Key game

Scotland's group opener against England will be mouthwatering and has the potential to be one of the games of the World Cup. But from a progression point of view, the team's Round 2 match against Japan is one in which it'll fancy an upset. Anything positive from the England match would be a bonus, but Scotland wants to test out the inexperienced Japan side and will look to their big-game players to instigate what could be an upset.

Local feedback

"We're definitely not going there just to enjoy the experience, be part of it and make up the numbers. We're going to compete. No one will get an easy game against us." -- Scotland's Erin Cuthbert

Prediction

Scotland should get through to the knockout stages as either runner-up or as one of the best third-place sides. Anything beyond there is a bonus.

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