Sophie Howard, the Scotland and Leicester defender, has admitted that she was tormented by the failure to reach this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Howard was part of Pedro Martinez Losa’s side who missed out after an insipid performance in the play-off final enabled the Republic of Ireland to claim the golden ticket at Scotland’s expense.

The full realisation of that failure was appreciated as the World Cup played out in Australia and New Zealand, a tournament that broke attendance records while attracting record breaking television audiences. 

Now, as Scotland prepare for their first home game of the inaugural Nations League campaign against Belgium, Howard is well aware that Scotland need to harness that frustration and show exactly why they deserve to be mixing it at major tournaments.

Certainly the 30-year-old defender is optimistic about the process that has gone on under Pedro Martinez Losa, who signed a new contract with the SFA until 2027,  and believes Scotland are in a better place than they were when they failed to qualify for the World Cup. 

“We have improved since then as a team and I think we learned a lot of lessons from that campaign,” said Howard. “But the first thing is that we cannot view it only as a failure.

“It is part of the process now for us as a team. I think the biggest thing we have learned since then is that we need to do ourselves justice in games.

“I don’t think we did that in that Ireland game. This Nations League campaign now is a chance for us to put that right.

READ MORE: Scotland shine despite Women’s Nations League defeat to England

“Regret is the wrong word to use in terms of the Ireland game. You can’t change it. But I would be lying if I said I found it easy in the build-up to the World Cup to feel anything other than bitterly disappointed that we were not going.

“I avoided so much of that because of how devastated I felt. It was traumatic. But I had a word with myself. I had to accept that the tournament was fantastic for women athletes and players and we all have that common goal of furthering the game so there was a positive element but before I got to that point I had to allow myself to feel devastated that we weren’t part of it.”

Scotland have been placed in League A for the inaugural Women’s Nations League tournament a group that also contains the Netherlands as well as England and Belgium.

There are four groups of four in the top league with the top two each progressing to a semi-final and then final while losers are relegated into League B, which will have a bearing on European Championship pots.

“We are fully aware of the quality of the teams we are playing against but I think we are all looking forward to that test,” she said.

“If you want to consider yourself a team that can go all the way and compete at major tournaments and against elite teams then you have to be prepared to go and have the mentality to take on good teams,” she said.

“I think as a group we are in a good place. We are always excited about playing at Hampden.

“It has become our home and I always think that if we get a decent crowd it does give us an extra edge

“Belgium will be another quality side for us. We have done our prep and we know how tough a challenge it is but that is what we want.

“The only way for us to put right our absence at the World Cup is to go and prove we can compete and that is how we view it - as an opportunity and one that we are all excited about.”