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Northern Ireland v Scotland preview

Abbi Grant secured Scotland a 2-1 win in their last meeting with Northern IrelandVenue: Seaview, Belfast Date: Thursday, 10 June Time: 19:00 BSTCoverage: Live video stream on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website; text updates and match report on the BBC Sport websiteNorthern Ireland host Scotland on Thursday in a friendly that both view as “massive” for contrasting reasons.

The home side will be looking to consolidate after qualifying for their first major tournament – next year’s Euro 2022 finals.

Scotland are looking to bounce back from missing out despite having been top seeds in their qualifying group.

The game in Belfast has been organised as preparation for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.

It will take place in front of 500 spectators at Seaview, the first time Northern Ireland have had home support since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scots are still under Stuart McLaren, the former youth team boss who has been interim head coach since Shelley Kerr exited in December after the failure to reach a third successive major finals.

Northern Ireland v Scotland streamed live on BBCHard watching us fall short – Clelland Scotland call up four uncapped playersWhen quizzed about the delay and whether he was ruling himself out of the running, the former Stirling Albion manager would only say “the process is accelerating and we are getting close to an appointment”.

A more high-profile face will welcome them in the shape of Kenny Shiels, the 65-year-old head coach who spent four seasons in Scotland, where he managed Kilmarnock and Greenock Morton, before two years in which he has transformed the fortunes of his national women’s side.

While the Scots finished third behind Finland and Portugal in their qualifying group, Shiels led his team to a famous 4-1 aggregate win over Ukraine in April’s play-off after finishing runners-up behind Norway.

His side remain 25 places behind the Scots in the world rankings despite the visitors slipping two places to 23rd in the latest standings. However, that win over 31st-placed Ukraine – and edging out 32nd-ranked Wales on goal difference – will be all the warning the Scots need as they head to Belfast.

The sides last met at the Pinatar Cup in March 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Scots 2-1 winners as goals by Erin Cuthbert and Abbi Grant cancelled out Rachel Furness’ opener.

The Welsh are Scotland’s next friendly opponents on Tuesday and McLaren said that, as they look to put the disappointment of the last campaign behind them: “These games are absolutely massive for us.”

Scotland start their World Cup campaign away to Hungary in September on the same night as Northern Ireland entertain Luxembourg.

Team newsJust like in their historic qualifying campaign, Northern Ireland have been heavily hit by injuries to key players. Liverpool midfielder Rachel Furness is out after breaking her leg in the first match against Ukraine, while centre-back Ashley Hutton injured her ACL last month while playing for Linfield.

Everton forward Simone Magill is unavailable as she is set to get married at the weekend and joins a long list of absentees, which includes Rangers duo Demi Vance and Megan Bell, Glentoran midfielder Caragh Hamilton and Linfield defender Abbie Magee. Glentoran midfielder Sam Kelly is also a doubt.

However, that offers Shiels an opportunity to give youth a chance. Teenagers Fi Morgan, Toni-Leigh Finnegan, Ella Haughey, Joely Andrews, Casey Howe, Kerry Beattie and Emily Wilson – who all play their club football in Northern Ireland – are included.

Scotland are also minus Manchester City centre-half Jen Beattie, Arsenal winger Lisa Evans, Reading full-back Emma Mitchell and West Ham United striker Martha Thomas.

Midfielder Christy Grimshaw could win her first cap at age 25 having impressed McLaren in an AC Milan side that have finished runners-up in both Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

Rangers’ Brianna Westrup, fellow defender Leah Eddie of Hibernian, and Charlton Athletic goalkeeper Eartha Cumings are the other new faces in the squad.

Fiorentina striker Lana Clelland returns to the national set-up for the first time since the 2019 World Cup finals.

However, she and the other players based in mainland Europe – Grimshaw and Rosengard forward Fiona Brown – were unable to join training until Wednesday as they awaited Covid test results.

What they saidNorthern Ireland head coach Kenny Shiels: “The Scotland game is to help the players tap up on their game fitness. Hopefully we will learn something from Scotland and it will help the girls to get on a positive pathway.

“Friendlies are about understanding where we are going because it is part of the journey. We will be focusing a lot on revisiting and understanding how we play and the revisit of that is to help them become better. Some people judge success a little bit prematurely by winning friendly matches, but to get where? You have to have a picture and want to be somewhere ahead of this.”

Scotland interim head coach Stuart McLaren: “That success of reaching successive tournaments was a remarkable achievement. Naturally, it’s a disappointment when you don’t qualify for the next one, but the group feel there is more to come from them as a squad.

“We are seeing some younger players emerge and there’s an evolution within the team and, although we learn lessons from the past, we want to look to the future – there is a strong core and there’s a lot to be excited about.”

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