Scotland will make a last-ditch attempt to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup on Wednesday night, armed with a message of support from Sir Alex Ferguson.
After losses to Japan and England, the Scots must beat Argentina to have a hope of sneaking a third-place qualification spot and extending their stay in France. Head coach Shelley Kerr said Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, contacted her ahead of their final Group D match.
“Everyone knows Sir Alex, so I probably won’t tell you everything [he said], but he did say he was disappointed with some of the decisions that were made against us,” Kerr said, in reference to the two clear penalty claims Scotland had in the 2-1 defeat by Japan last Friday.
“But he was very complimentary about the team – he watched both [matches] – the determination, the stamina, the togetherness to finish so strongly in both. He’s going to be tuning in [for Argentina], so it’s brilliant to have a great bit of support from an absolute legend.”
Scotland go into the tie at the Parc des Princes as favourites for the first time during this tournament, but Argentina have proved formidable opponents in their two matches so far. Despite ranking 17 places below Scotland, they earned an unlikely point against Japan and their goalkeeper, Vanina Correa, had the game of her life in their 1-0 loss to England.
The task ahead of Scotland is far from easy and they will need to show up much quicker than they did in their two defeats, in which their performances in the second half far surpassed their slow starts.
Despite Kerr’s insistence that the penalty decisions in the Japan match are not acting as further motivation, the feeling is that Scotland are due a little luck. They will need it, as even victory on Wednesday night will not guarantee progression. They remain dependent on the results of the other third-placed teams. Three points would be historic nonetheless, as their first at a World Cup.
The Parc des Princes stadium is an appropriate ground for potential history-making, as the setting of one of Scottish football’s most glorious nights, when the men’s national team beat France in 2007 thanks to a wonder goal by James McFadden.
When Erin Cuthbert was asked if she planned to channel that same energy, the forward said that a positive result of any description was all she was wishing for.
“I wish it was that easy. I just want anyone to score, to be honest,” she said. “It’s going to be a really tough game and Argentina are here to beat us as well.
“If we bring our A game then they’re not going to be able to live with us, but it’s all about performing on the night. You can have all the tactics you want but ultimately it’s going to come down to small margins and pieces of individual brilliance to break them down.”
That moment of brilliance could well come from the 20-year-old Chelsea player, who has been a standout member of the team thus far. Cuthbert says her wish to prolong their World Cup became all the more acute after experiencing the tournament as a spectator for the first time over the weekend.
“It was amazing, I went to USA v Chile,” she said, in reference to the 45,000 crowd. "It was a good stadium familiarisation, you could say."