Scotland ready for Russia challenge

Published: Saturday 25 October 2008, 11.57CET
Scotland may have a poor record against Russia and be without suspended striker Julie Fleeting but manager Anna Signeul remains hopeful ahead of their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ play-off first leg at Tynecastle.
by Paul Saffer & Dmitri Rogovitskiy
Scotland ready for Russia challenge
Scotland have moved from their usual Perth base to Heart of Midlothian FC's Tynecastle stadium ©Getty Images
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Published: Saturday 25 October 2008, 11.57CET

Scotland ready for Russia challenge

Scotland may have a poor record against Russia and be without suspended striker Julie Fleeting but manager Anna Signeul remains hopeful ahead of their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ play-off first leg at Tynecastle.
Scotland are "up for the challenge" of their UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ play-off first leg against Russia on Sunday at Edinburgh's Tynecastle Stadium according to manager Anna Signeul as they seek to reach their first senior female finals.

Fleeting suspended
Although Russia missed out on the 2005 finals after a play-off loss to Finland, they have been regulars at the later stages of both the UEFA European Women's Championship and FIFA Women's World Cup. Scotland have not even made it past the qualifying groups before this tournament, and for the first leg will be without suspended captain Julie Fleeting, who has scored 107 goals in 105 international appearances.

Tough task
"It was the worst possible draw, but we are up for this challenge," said Signeul. "It is the first time we have been at this level and it would be absolutely fantastic if we could go through." Uncapped Diana Barry and fellow forward Hayley Cunningham have been called up for the first leg in Fleeting's absence, though her Arsenal LFC colleague Kim Little and the experienced Pauline Hammill are more likely to be joined in attack by Suzanne Grant. Midfielder Megan Sneddon said: "Obviously Julie is a huge threat and we will miss her, but our team is full of talented players who are more than capable of putting the ball in the back of the net."

Upper hand
Russia have the upper hand on Scotland in recent meetings, beating them 3-2 in March's Cyprus Cup and 6-0 at home and 4-0 away in 2007 World Cup qualifying. They are without back-up goalkeeper Kristina Slashchinina and defender Maria Dyatchkova due to injury but coach Igor Shalimov expects midfielder Nadezhda Kharchenko to recover from a minor knock as they attempt to make up for being pipped by Norway in their qualifying group.

'Eager' Russia
"We have called up 21 players and everybody is fit and eager to play," Shalimov told uefa.com. "The most important thing is to be very careful in defence. We have to control the game and be aggressive for the 90 minutes." The second leg is in Nalchik on Thursday.

Last updated: 26/10/08 11.40CET

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