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Scotland ready to seize finals chance

Already a senior international, Arsenal LFC's Caroline Weir knows just what it takes to step up as she and Zoe Ness seek to inspire Scotland to a historic victory over Belgium.

Caroline Weir of Scotland
Caroline Weir of Scotland ©Sportsfile

Surrounded by the tranquil Norwegian fjords, Scotland's top scorers in qualifying, Zoe Ness and Caroline Weir, have plenty of opportunity for reflection ahead of the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship.

"This is what we wanted," Weir says, "to reach the finals. It's what we have always wanted. It's definitely the highest level we've played at. Our first match is against Belgium, which is really tough. We're now up against the best players of our age in Europe, and really that's as big a challenge as you can ask for."

As the preparation intensifies, Weir's appreciation of the team's achievement grows. "This is a big deal for Scottish football, not just the women's game," the Arsenal LFC forward adds. "It's the first time Scotland have qualified for a tournament in around 18 months. Being out here, seeing how professional women's football is, and how seriously it is taken, is great. It really makes us feel we've done something great."

Ness, who scored eight qualifying goals to Weir's nine, agrees. "It's a massive achievement and we're happy to be setting the standard, and that goes for Scotland teams at all levels," said the Durham Ladies FC forward. "That goes for women's and men's football. We're here competing with the top sides and we'll hopefully do well. The likes of Sweden, Germany, France – when we played them at under-15 level for instance, there was a huge difference. Now that gap has closed a bit."

Zoe Ness in qualifying action
Zoe Ness in qualifying action©Ivan Klindić

One gap that has not closed is the leap from this level to the senior side – Scotland do not have an U23 women's side. "There is a big gap between us and the girls in the A squad," says Ness, 18. "Caroline has been called up before but I couldn't imagine what it involves."

Weir, whose senior call-ups have produced four caps and a trip to Brazil in February, helps fuel the imagination. "It is totally different," said the 19-year-old. "The training is tougher and the setup is that little bit more professional. It's really hard and much more demanding. If we had another level, an U21 or U23 side I am sure it would be easier, but it just means we work harder now.

"That's why being at tournaments like this are so important for us. We are hoping to get crowds much bigger than those who see us play in Scotland too, and even that is a boost." A first finals win on Tuesday could top the lot.