A couple of days ago I wrote that despite being ranked four places below yesterday’s Netball World Cup opponents Fiji, the recent form shown by Scotland was enough to suggest there were less than ten goals between the sides, and the Thistles had a genuine chance of not only pushing the Fijian Pearls, but also of actually winning the game….
There was only one goal between the two sides at the half-time break, but a dominant third quarter from the Pacific Islanders opened up a lead that Scotland could not overturn in the final fifteen minutes. The final score was 42-48… just six goals in it; and as I had suggested in my last article (more by luck than judgement I hasten to add), a two goal turnaround per quarter would actually have been enough to win the game. Fine margins….
I wasn’t able to see the game, and readily concede that my comments may reflect my lack of knowledge, but for me what the Scots have done is gain experience from giving it a real go against the very top sides, and confidence from being able to produce professional performances to beat the “lesser” teams. That experience and confidence, combined with the girls’ obvious determination and team spirit has now seen the Thistles overcome Barbados by three goals, before yesterday’s narrow reverse.
Gail Parata is in charge of a squad that is not only consistent, but actually developing; certainly to win a closely-fought game against a higher-rated team is a notable accomplishment. In terms of skill level, there probably is little to choose between the teams ranked a couple either side of Scotland’s eleventh position, but staying calm, producing your best form, executing plays and scoring goals under intense (scoreboard) pressure is what can ultimately make that all important difference between winning and losing… between eleventh, tenth, or maybe even ninth place in the world; and climbing even one place up those rankings would be a massive achievement given the way the pool groups were arranged, which left the Thistles (and Samoa for that matter) effectively having to beat either England or Jamaica to have any chance of battling it out for a top eight finish.
Against Barbados, Scotland showed they had the mental strength to win a tight game, and they did themselves credit again yesterday. The Thistles ran a decent side very close; on paper they’ve arguably performed beyond their pre-competition classification, but although I don’t know, I would reckon the girls will be disappointed/frustrated/angry (take your pick) at the defeat. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure their collective expectation is not just to compete with the sides in the lower reaches of the sport’s “top ten”, it’s to beat them. Any perceived gap seems to be closing though… and tomorrow the Thistles will get another chance to test their skills and mental strength, with a finish inside the tournament top ten still up for grabs.
It won’t be easy… but it wouldn’t have been easy before yesterday’s game, so one way to look at it is that the Thistles and their coaching staff now have the benefit of another hour’s action to digest and analyse before the squad takes to the court again to face Trinidad and Tobago. I’m sure the girls will be relishing the challenge… and, as before, I wish them well.