When the full-time whistle went on Friday at Wembley, the England players looked devastated. They collapsed to the turf and pondered where they had come up short against the Netherlands with some, most notably Mary Earps, in tears. But the Lionesses hadn’t lost the game – they’d actually completed an incredible second-half turnaround to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
The paradox of the result and the scenes on the pitch summed up the convoluted set of permutations England face as their Women’s Nations League group-stage campaign comes to an end in Scotland on Tuesday night. A victory by a two-goal margin at Wembley would’ve made things a lot less complicated and put matters more firmly in the Lionesses’ hands – and the players knew that, as they were knocking on the door to make it 4-2 when the referee called time on the match.
A simple way to look at it, though, is that if Sarina Wiegman’s side beat Scotland by a heavy scoreline, thus overtaking the Netherlands in the standings on goal difference, they can progress to the next stage. That doesn’t just mean they have a chance of winning a trophy, but also of booking Great Britain a spot in next summer’s Olympic women’s football tournament.
The Netherlands will take on a tricky Belgium side at the same time on Tuesday, one that has already beaten both the Dutch and England, so there is certainly a chance that they drop points. But the Lionesses will be fully focused on their own task, on beating Scotland and rubbing salt in the wounds of their neighbours, who were relegated from League A of the Nations League after a draw with Belgium on Friday night.
After that remarkable turnaround at Wembley, England will have a lot of confidence that they can defy the odds once more to keep their Nations League and Olympic dreams alive. There are plenty of reasons to believe, in fact, as GOAL picks out five of them…