SHE had just scored Scotland’s first ever goal against the Auld Enemy at a World Cup finals. But it was not enough, not for Claire Emslie.

It was now 2-1 against England with 79 minutes on the clock and the forward wanted the ball. A lot.

So the 25-year-old chased it in to the net. As she did so a stadium roared, perhaps a pitch higher than most viewers were used to, but no less fiercely. Fans felt her drive, and that of her team. The nation’s footballers had come to France to win.

Scotland’s Women last night did not quite do so. Their battle with the much-fancied Lionesses ended, in typical Scottish fashion, in glorious and narrow defeat after a game that everything, from a controversial penalty to disallowed goals.

HeraldScotland: THAT goal

And yet on Sunday afternoon in Nice and live on TV Scotland’s Women secured a perhaps bigger prize. They captured a country’s heart with a display of grit, determination and class not always achieved by their male counterparts. Women’s football had arrived north of the border.

READ MORE: The Scotland game as it happened

“Scotland did us proud tonight,” declared super-fan and team patron Nicola Sturgeon from the stadium. “Great second half performance in particular. I know they will be disappointed not to take a point but so many positives to build on for the next match. Well done and good luck on Friday.”


The First Minister was talking about a clash with Japan later this week in the Breton capital of Rennes. After that, a showdown with Argentina. Manager Shelley Kerr - newly recognised by the Queen with an MBE in another symbol of women’s football’s new status - was also looking forward, not back. And she thinks “Our Lassies” have to win just one of those games to do what Scottish boys have never done: qualify out of the group stages of the World Cup.

Ms Kerr was having none of the post-match remonstration of the men’s game, even if a penalty, granted using VAR video technology, had made the difference between her side and England.

“I’ve watched the penalty three times and I thought it was a bit harsh, but the rules are the rules,” Kerr said. “What I want to do now is applaud the players for the second-half display.”


Shelley Kerr

The Scotland coach praised her opponents. “They are ranked third in the world for a reason and there is no doubt they are a formidable team,” she said. “”The penalty probably dented our confidence a wee bit, but all credit to the players, they regrouped after half time and that’s what they’ve done throughout the campaign.”

Fans like this style. And quickly contrasted it to the tone struck by the unhappy England manager, a man, Phil Neville, who turned up for the game in a waistcoat like the one sported by coach Gareth Southgate at last year’s male World Cup.

Supporter Susan Stewart tweeted: “And isn’t Shelley Kerr a class act! Acknowledges officials have a difficult job, refuses to criticise VAR, congratulates England and clearly focused on next game. Contrast with Phil Neville...”

MEN'S GAME: Steve Clarke praises his players for battling back from the brink of a Euro 2020 exit

Sunday’s match had come after unprecedented build-up for women’s football. Newspapers and TV have celebrated the team’s stars. Women denied caps for past appearances have been recognised. It has been a slog. Herald columnist and football fan Kevin McKenna summed it up this weekend. “There remains a residual animosity to the concept of women’s football as mainstream,” he wrote. “It follows a depressingly predictable narrative which dictates that women, no matter how skilful, lack the sheer brute strength to propel a football at speed or to remain physically robust for 90 minutes in the modern game. This isn’t sexist; just stupid.”

Times change. Now the national women’s team plays at Hampden, securing a record crowd for their last home game. There are murals across the country of the teams stars. One, at a biscuit factory in Leith, in her native Edinburgh features Emslie with her arms folded and the same determined look on her face as she had tearing in to that goal mouth to get her ball back.

The striker, who plays her club football in Canada, made it clear she is not giving up. “England are world-class players, they’re experienced and we matched them at points,” she said in her after-match interview with the BBC. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result.

“It’s not over yet. We’ve still got two massive games, so we’ll focus on that now.”