More than Auld rivalry on line when Lionesses square up to Scotland

Team GB's Olympic hopes rest on England's shoulders meaning win at Hampden Park is a must

England sit behind the Netherlands only on goal difference in Group A after Sarina Wiegman’s side fought back to defeat the Dutch 3-2
England sit behind the Netherlands only on goal difference after Sarina Wiegman’s side fought back to defeat the Dutch 3-2

By Milly McEvoy at Wembley Stadium

When England line up against Scotland next Tuesday there is more than just the Auld rivalry on the line.

The Lionesses need to beat the already-relegated Scots to stand any chance of progressing out of their UEFA Women’s National League group.

In doing so, they will move one step closer to achieving a place for Team GB at next year's Paris Olympics.

Because, even though Scotland’s players will want to beat their arch-rivals, there will be a voice in the back of their heads telling them that doing so will end their own Olympic dreams.

England currently sit second in Group A, behind the Netherlands only on goal difference after Sarina Wiegman’s side fought back to defeat the Dutch 3-2.

The Lionesses are Team GB’s nominated side to secure their Olympic place with Scotland's place not counting even if they had finished higher than England.

The path to Paris 2024 requires England to beat Scotland at Hampden Park and, either, the Netherlands drop points against Belgium in their final group game.

Or, the Netherlands win, but England beat Scotland by a large enough margin to overtake the Dutch on goal difference.

If you thought that was the end of it, there is still more to get your head around.

Topping the group and reaching the semi-finals still does not guarantee Team GB one of 12 Olympic spots, England need to reach the final to be certain of a place.

But again there is a caveat, if Paris 2024 hosts France make the Nations League final, winning the third-place play-off will be enough for England to take Team GB to the Olympics.

The raw permutations are enough to make a neutral’s head spin before you even consider England and Scotland’s unique situation.

There is one player who perhaps best encapsulates the madness - Sandy MacIver.

The Manchester City keeper switched allegiances midway through the Nations League campaign from England to Scotland.

MacIver, whose father is Scottish and mother is French, had made just one appearance for England but had regularly been selected for camps under Sarina Wiegman.

Upon making her Scotland debut, MacIver explained she was raised a Scotland fan and only had limited ties to the country of her birth.

MacIver could line up against her former teammates and know that even if she fails to stop England scoring she could be in a position to represent Team GB as the back-up to the Lionesses' no.1 Mary Earps.

That is because the manager who could select MacIver will be watching on with Sarina Wiegman already confirmed as head coach for Team GB if they make it to Paris.

However, Wiegman is under no illusion that players north of the border will be trying to help England.

“There is an enormous rivalry between Scotland and England," she said after the Lionesses' dramatic injury-time win.

"Scotland are not going to give anything away even though they were relegated."

Another player eyeing up Olympic selection is Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert.

She scored a wonder strike to see her side draw 1-1 with Belgium to take qualification out of the Red Flames’ hands and make England's route easier.

Cuthbert went off with an injury on Friday night limiting her chances of playing against England.

The diminutive midfielder has the power to change the game with one strike of the ball and her absence could feed into the Lionesses' hands.

But after only edging past them in Sunderland to kick off the campaign, England know Scotland will not roll over.

With so much up in the air, it is best to follow Wiegman’s lead and acknowledge that you can only focus on what you can do.

And as the audience, you can sit back and let the madness unfurl, and hope someone somewhere is keeping up with the permutations.