WOMEN’S football in Scotland has enjoyed a sharp upturn in popularity both in terms of those participating and those watching in recent years without the national team featuring in a World Cup finals.

So what will their involvement in France this month do for the sport in this country going forward? It can only boost it even further still.

Shelley Kerr’s girls may have lost their opening Group D fixture against the England team coached by Phil Neville in the Allianz Riviera in Nice on Sunday evening.

Yet, their gallant display against the Auld Enemy as well as the exposure they are currently receiving playing on a global stage will do wonders for the women's game in this country going forward.


READ MORE: Would signing David Turnbull benefit Celtic, or the player? Here's what the stats say

The match at the weekend was shown live on terrestrial television, was the talk of social media websites and internet message boards and has dominated both the front and back pages of every national newspaper today.

That has never happened in the past and women’s football has steadily grown to the stage where a crowd of 18,555 attended their final warm-up match against Jamaica at Hampden last month.

Many of those who filed through the turnstiles at the national stadium had received complimentary tickets. Nevertheless, it was an incredible turnout.

It was certainly far more than had turned up to watch their first international at Ravenscraig in 1972. And it was more than four times as many as their record 4,098 attendance.

What sort of impact will the welcome publicity they are receiving have on attendances going forward? How many more young girls will want to take up football as a result? Those who work away quietly for the good of the sport must be excited at the prospect.

There are many in this country who are still dismissive of the women's efforts. The difficulties that female goalkeepers, who are invariably smaller than their male counterparts, have keeping out shots in goals which are the same size as the men’s lead many critics to brand the game a joke.


READ MORE: Should it be Brophy or Burke up front for Scotland in Belgium?

But the performance of Rachel Corsie and her team mates on Sunday will have won around a fair few sceptics. They played with heart and no little skill. Everyone in the 13,188-strong crowd as well as those watching at home were royally entertained.

Scotland by no means embarrassed themselves against the tournament’s third seeds despite the 2-1 defeat they suffered at the end of 90 minutes. Quite the contrary.

Kerr refused to blame the penalty her girls had awarded against them early in the first-half after Czech referee Jana Adamkova had consulted VAR.

But you were left to wonder what the final outcome would have been if Adamkova hadn’t ruled that a Fran Kirby cross had struck the outstretched arm of Nicola Docherty.

Nikita Parris netted the spot kick and her side, who had been second best up until that point, took a visible lift from going in front. Ellen White added a second before half-time.

The girls in dark blue were fortunate not to be trailing by more. They were sloppy in possession and porous at the back. Only some slipshod finishing from their opponents and fine goalkeeping by Lee Alexander kept the scoreline down.

A repeat of the 6-0 drubbing they suffered in their opening match at Euro 2017 looked a distinct possibility.

But the second-half was a vast improvement. Claire Emslie pulled one back 11 minutes from the end. If Scotland had levelled and recorded a draw it wouldn’t have flattered them.

READ MORE: Celtic signing Marian Shved tipped to star for Ukraine by Andriy Shevchenko

It was a familiar Scottish story even if it was their debut in the tournament – they produced a heroic performance against a team placed far higher up the world rankings, suffered some cruel luck and ultimately finished up empty-handed.

However, the fightback has given the Tartan Army – over 2,500 of whom had travelled to France to watch Scotland in action – hope their heroines can take something from their second match against Japan in Rennes on Friday and Argentina in Paris the following Wednesday and progress to the knockout rounds.

If they can reproduce their fighting spirit and play with greater intelligence and composure, in the final third in particular, they can give the 2011 winners Japan a game and defeat 500-1 outsiders Argentina too.

Going through to the last 16 will only help the inexorable rise of women’s football in Scotland.