A TRIP to Nice is agreeable at any time, but when it involves a World Cup game between Scotland and England it has an added piquancy. Shelley Kerr returned from the south of France in midweek, delighted that the facilities on offer will match the occasion.
The Scotland head coach flew down from Paris following the tournament draw which put her side in Group D with England, Japan and Argentina. She visited the Fifa-nominated hotel, training facilities and the highly impressive Allianz Riviera, which hosted four Euro 2016 games.
One of them – in what is hopefully a good omen – was Iceland’s 2-1 win over England in the last 16.
The 35,624-capacity venue, also known as Stade de Nice, is a multi-purpose ground. It is the home of men’s club Nice, who play in French Ligue 1 and whose manager is Patrick Vieira.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” Kerr said. “It was only opened five years ago so it has all the mod cons. The atmosphere will be great because it’s an enclosed stadium with the seating close to the pitch.”
Barcelona, and Lionel Messi, are among the teams to have stayed at Scotland’s hotel, and Kerr said: “Because of Euro 2016 the staff have got a real handle of international teams’ requirements. Every team is in a different hotel for each group game.
“We also spent a lot of time with the liaison officer who will be with us for the tournament. It was brilliant to meet her personally. She will be crucial to us during the World Cup. We’ll go out at a later date to view the facilities in Rennes and Paris.”
As far as the draw itself is concerned, Kerr is maintaining her stance that she is just happy to have avoided holders and the world’s No 1 team, USA.
“I was relaxed before the draw, and I’m relaxed now,” the head coach said. “It’s going to be tough, but exciting. All three opponents are going to be different. England play in a different way from Japan, and the same with Argentina. What we have to do is replicate that in our preparation games so we can play teams which are similar to them.”
As far as England are concerned, that will be provided in La Manga next month where opponents Norway and Iceland are strong, physical sides.
Next up after the trip to Spain is a return to the Iberian Peninsula for the Algarve Cup at the end of February.
Denmark and Switzerland are among the teams so far named for the tournament, but Japan, who participated this year, won’t be there.
“We’ll try to play another two games in the April international window,” Kerr said. “We’ve never played Argentina before, so we might try and get South American opponents at some point. There will be one game at home, probably in May.”
THE World Cup, and Scotland’s hosting of the U19 Euros the following month, have punched huge holes in next year’s domestic calendar. The SBS SWPL1 fixtures will be announced tomorrow, with the extended season starting on February 10 and ending with the SSE Scottish Cup final on November 24.
The top clubs were given a number of options for the fixture list, including cutting down on the 21 league games, but voted overwhelmingly to retain the status quo.
“I’m comfortable we’ve listened to the clubs and given them what they want,” said SWF executive officer Fiona McIntyre. “With the Champions League to accommodate as well it has been the most difficult set of fixtures ever to schedule – but all for positive reasons.”
Source : HeraldScotland