IFEOMA DIEKE, the Scotland defender who plays her club football in Sweden, was feeling especially at home yesterday as she and her Scotland team-mates prepared for tomorrow evening's crucial 2015 World Cup qualifier against the Swedes at Fir Park.
The Scotland squad is based at Cumbernauld, where Dieke, who was born in Massachusetts, was brought up and learned to play her football. Now 33, she is hoping that Scotland can finally reach a major championship final.
Scotland were given little chance of qualifying automatically when they were drawn in the same qualifying group as Sweden, but an admirable start to the campaign, with six wins out of six and a healthy goal difference accrued, has given Anna Signeul's side hope that they can be spared yet another play-off drama. The Swedes, who are ranked fifth in the world and third in Europe, have also won all their opening five matches.
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"It's a game between two teams who have 100% records so obviously something has to give," Dieke said.
"It's going to be a physical game but we're all confident. We drew with France in the Cyprus Cup and beat other higher ranked sides there as well. The mood is good and we believe we can get a positive result."
Dieke, along with goalkeeper Shannon Lynn, defender Hayley Lauder and striker Jane Ross, plays for the Vittsjo in the Damallsvenskan and says that her Swedish friends are confident their side can beat Scotland.
"For them, losing is not even an option even although they know Scotland have started well," she said. "Because of their standing in women's football they have a huge belief in their ability."
Despite this, the game in Sweden took a huge hit last week when Champions League finalists Tyreso folded just a fortnight after losing 4-3 to Wolfsburg in Lisbon. Five of the players in the Swedish squad played for the club. "It's unheard of for something like this to happen in Sweden," Dieke said. "When I played in America the league folded twice because of the way the game is structured there, but football in Sweden has always been stable.
"We heard the rumours about Tyreso but didn't believe this would happen. Lessons have been learned by the Swedish Federation, and the clubs as well. It's not sustainable to pay unrealistic wages to superstars [like the Brazilian, Marta] in order to try to win the Champions League."