Monday night saw Scotland girls run out comfortable winners at the Oriam Centre with a 4-0 domination, helped massively by a Morgan Cross hat-trick.
The stats didn’t lie either, as Scotland surpassed Croatia considerably in terms of shots on and off target (13 and 9 respectively), while their opponents could only muster up less than half that many opportunities, and in terms of corners, where Pauline Hamill’s side outnumbered the Croats by 4 corners.
Early on in the game Scotland began to set the tone, which, in truth, they very rarely stopped dictating throughout the match, as Croatia struggled massively to get a foothold within the contest.
The real standout feature of Scotland’s play was their high-pressing game, which penned their opponents into their own half and gave them little space to play, which they attempted quite a bit. As a result, Croatia ended up surrendering possession often throughout the first half, with Kaela McDonald being the most important player within this tactic, winning back the ball and starting up attacks more often than not.
Interestingly, you wouldn’t have expected Vera Onica’s side to be the one being bullied when in possession, due to the physical prowess of his players, but that was exactly what happened in the first-half.
In what had been a scrappy game, it took an outrageous moment of quality from Kim McAlpine to open the scoring for Scotland, when her 45-yard attempt went all the way over the goalkeeper and into the net for a deserved lead. It was the first proper chance for either side, despite not really being much of a chance itself!
The visitors weren’t exactly doing themselves many favours, sitting very deep in their own half throughout the first half, only inviting pressure every time that the hosts verged forward.
Despite the clear problems with Scotland’s pressing, Croatia remained adamant to pass it out from the back, and that directly contributed to the hosts second goal. Due to more overplaying between the defence and goalkeeper, Cross nipped in to tuck home from close range and open her account for the night. Once again, build-up play proving to be the Achilles heel for the visitors.
A more direct approach may have perhaps favoured Croatia a bit more, considering the obvious height and physicality within their ranks.
The visitors did improve however and begin to rack of their shot target in the closing ten minutes, racking up four altogether between then and half time, although most of them close from long range and failed to work Kiera Gibson in goals, as their manager frequently suggested that they adopt a “shoot on sight” policy.
When Croatia did attack, most of their breaks came from the central area, where they looked to get away through Fatjesa Gegollaj, who had looked the most likely to create something for her side.
Whereas Scotland were targeting the wide areas frequently, with the switch of play being one of their more favoured moves of the night.
The pattern continued much the same in the second-half, as Scotland switched to a highly-successful 3-4-3 formation, occasionally shifting to a diamond formation, which frequently found them filled with numbers when attacking, and often giving the Croatians plenty to worry about.
Once again, Croatia stuck by their approach and chose to build-up play starting with the goalkeeper and defence, despite the immense pressure they faced.
Croatia had a period where they looked as if they could get themselves back in the game, as Scotland could have been punished for a sloppy ten-minute spell, which saw the majority of the visitors’ efforts on goal. Despite their rallying attempt to get a goal back, the Scots managed to find their mojo again with 15 minutes left.
The sloppy passing turned into slick passing, as incisive moves carved open the Croatia defence for two late goals from Cross, to seal her well-deserved hat-trick after an accomplished performance upfront, to put the icing on the cake for Scotland.
All in all, a well-deserved, dominant win for Scotland, who outran and outclassed Croatia throughout the majority of the match. Although it was a tireless performance, there was no shortage of tactical nous and eye-catching football on display from Pauline Hamill’s side.