Scotland's Catriona Ralph
Scotland's Catriona Ralph
(Photo: Scottish Hockey Union)

Scotland Women Head Coach Gordon Shepherd has a top two finish in his sights as the national side prepares to start its FIH World League Round 2 campaign against Trinidad & Tobago in Rio on Monday.

Should the squad achieve this target, they will advance to the prestigious third phase of the new world-level competition.

“Our aim is to qualify for the third round, and to do that we will need to win four out of our five games”, said Shepherd.  “USA and Chile will be our main opposition, but we are capable of beating both, but will have to play well to achieve this.”

As well as Monday's opponents, the Scots will also face Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and favourites USA in a league format.

Scotland have a positive record against their promotion rivals; at the 2010 FIH World Cup Qualifier in Santiago, they beat hosts Chile 1-0 to finish second in the tournament, while the USA were also beaten 1-0 by Shepherd’s side at the FIH Champions Challenge in Dublin last October, the winning goal coming from Sarah Robertson.

Equally encouraging is the fact that Scotland won a warm-up series against Italy in Rome just over a week ago, drawing two games 3-3 and winning the other 2-1.

Reviewing the series, Shepherd said, “Scoring goals has been an issue for us in the past, so it was good to see us score a few and from different sources.   As for the defence, we need to tighten up in some areas, but that was the reason for the Rome trip to find out just where those areas are.”

The Dundonian has also identified the heat of Rio de Janeiro to be a concerning factor, but the squad have been undergoing very tough sauna sessions as preparation for the high temperatures, “All the other teams will be accustomed to the heat so they have an advantage in this area. Where we have an advantage is in the fitness of the squad and the level of hockey we can play.”

Shepherd has the additional advantage of a fairly settled squad, and there are no short-term injury issues apart from defender Catriona Ralph having to wear a protective facemask after recent surgery on her damaged jaw, sustained during the Italy series. But the squad will be without Sarah Robertson and Becky Merchant, both long-term injury victims, and Great Britain player Emily Maguire who is on a sabbatical after the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“It`s very important to get off to a good start, not only to get points on the board, but to build the confidence in the squad,” said Shepherd.

Scottish Hockey Union media release