Scotland may have lost their opening match with England, but there was a lot of positives to take away. It was a historical moment, their first ever World Cup match, and against their closest and oldest rivals.
Emotion ran deep, but it didn’t let it get to them.
In the first half, Shelley Kerr’s side were outclassed. There’s no shame in that. They were overrun both on the right and left flanks; Lucy Bronze, one of the best fullbacks in the world, kept bombing forward to link up with Nikita Parris, and it proved to be too much.
They were a little unlucky when, once again, VAR piped up a controversial decision to show that Nicola Doherty handled in the penalty area, but they couldn’t say it wasn’t coming. 1-0 to England. It didn’t stop there with Ellen White doubling the Lionesses lead 26 minutes later. It was all England.
But after the break, and at 2-0 down, they seemed more confident than ever. Maybe England became complacent, but it didn’t matter, the second half was all about Scotland. Getting the consolation goal showed why with WSL winner Lisa Evans can always dig deep and get something, this time it was a blistering ball to teammate Claire Emslie, who slotted in at the near-post.
This is a Scottish team who have no pressure on them and are a talented, quick side. Not only that but, they’ve also got a lifeline.
In the other group game Japan looked uncharacteristically lacklustre in their 0-0 draw with Argentina. However, that stalemate has blown the so-called “group of death” wide open.
Scotland are only one point behind both Argentina and the team they face on Friday; with England more than likely to win against the former, should Scotland win here, they’ll be on course to qualify from Group D in second.
It’s early days yet, and we must remember that Japan won the World Cup eight years ago, as well as finishing on the podium several times. They have a rich, technical footballing culture and will frustrate teams. I expect them to do that here.
This one to be a very nervy match. Japan will need to win to show they are that same squad that can be the very best on their day. Their rivals need a win to have any chance of prolonging their stay in France.
I can see these two cancelling each other out, but I think Scotland might have the edge of the pressure being off them as it’s their first World Cup.
Japan are still 4/6 favourites to win, but after their opening performance, I’m not sure what they’re going to bring to the table in this match. The Scotland or Draw on the double chance market looks the most attractive to me in trying to decide an outcome at Evens.
Best Bet: Scotland or Draw – 10/11
With everything I’ve said above, I reckon it’s also worth going for the Handicap. It’s going to be a close game, and if any side wins, it’ll be by a one-goal margin.
The handicap draw (-1) is 23/10 and that might be worth a play.
Best Bet: Handicap draw (-1) – 23/10
Unfortunately, this is one of the rare occasions that the Under 2.5 market is odds-on rather than odds against – blame Japan’s last outing. So, I’ll look at goal scorers.
In the last match, I backed Erin Cuthbert to score anytime, but it’ll be harder for her to get into the match this time round. I think backing one of this season’s WSL winners who just behind play her is the way to go. Back Evans and Kim Little to score anytime at 7/1 and 4/1 respectively.