England: Sarina Wiegman wants wild Lionesses as bizarre Olympics sub-plot spices up Scotland drama

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

The Lionesses' target tonight is to thrash Scotland at Hampden Park.

That might sound like English arrogance — the assertion that a tight victory over their neighbours would not be satisfactory. Yet, this time, there is a legitimate reason as they prepare for their must-win final group game in the Nations League.

England are the nominated team to qualify Team GB for the women's football competition at next summer's Paris Olympics, with the Nations League acting as the qualifying tournament.

Only two European teams can qualify for the Olympics, and the Lionesses must win their group and finish in the top two (or three if France make the final) at February's Nations League Finals.

England are level on points with group leaders Holland, who host Belgium tonight, but are second on goal difference. If they both triumph, then the Lionesses must win by three goals more than the Dutch to progress.

The controversy arrives when considering that Scotland stand in England's way.

A number of Scottish players would have a good chance of making Team GB's 18-player squad if they qualified, but would kill their own Olympic dreams by winning tonight.

I think it is absolutely outrageous to question anyone's integrity and I think it is a huge insult to us.

Scotland captain Rachel Corsie

That has led to both squads being asked if the hosts might lie down and let the Lionesses rack up the goals?

The answer has been consistent and steadfast.

Scotland captain Rachel Corsie said: "A lot of people outside have spoken about it, and truthfully I think it is so disrespectful. I think it is absolutely outrageous to question anyone's integrity and I think it is a huge insult to us.

"I understand why the question is being asked but, for us, the motivation is playing for your country."

Sarina Wiegman feels the same, but is hopeful her side can win by the necessary margin.

England's head coach said: "If you have seen our group, seen Scotland, and know the history of Scotland-England, then there is no way they are going to give away this game. They really want to beat England, and we want to beat Scotland. There's such a rivalry.

"I hope they [the Lionesses] go wild from the first minute. But you don't want to get erratic. We want to get a lot of players up front but stay calm and score as a team — and don't concede any. Let's create lots of chances and score."

The England squad (Getty Images)
The England squad (Getty Images)

This strange drama could have been avoided had England had a better campaign.

Since reaching the World Cup Final in August, they have won three and lost two of their five Nations League matches. In none of those games did they perform convincingly for a full 90 minutes.

The returns from injury of Beth Mead and Fran Kirby have been welcome, but the Lionesses have missed the metronomic presence of captain Leah Williamson.

Wiegman's side just about deserved to beat the Scots in their opener at Sunderland in September, and righted the wrongs of a woeful first-half display on Friday by coming from 2-0 down to beat Holland 3-2 at Wembley. It was a tough night for goalkeeper and captain Mary Earps, usually so reliable, whose mistake led to the second Dutch goal.

In the two months between those games, the Lionesses lost away to both Holland and Belgium and looked porous in defence.

"It has been up and down," left-back Niamh Charles said. "We'll definitely learn from [the Nations League] and be a better team for it. It's not just going to be plain sailing.

"I don't think there was discussion that it's not in our hands. We know it will be a really tough test, but we will definitely be ready for it. To go to the Olympics would be incredible. We're all fighting for that."