In her first article for Scotzine, Glasgow City and Scotland international Leanne Ross looks back at the disappointment and the hurt of missing out on the European championships in Sweden and wonders how Scotland would have competed given recent results against teams in the competition.
The 24th October 2012 is a day that will haunt me for some time. In the Pabelon de la Ciudad del Futbol in Madrid, along with my Scotland teammates, I endured the most agonising emotional rollercoaster imaginable.
After a 1-1 draw at Hampden, the same result in the away leg in Madrid took our UEFA European Championship play off match against Spain into extra time.
The ever dependable Kim Little gave us a 98th minute lead but the Spaniards equalised in the 113th minute. With just minutes remaining in extra time, Gemma Fay looked to have secured our progression to the Finals on the away goals rule with a brilliant penalty save, but then the unimaginable happened.
In the second minute of injury time, with literally the last kick of the game, Vero Boquete broke our hearts and shattered our dreams when she somehow found the back of our net from inside a crowded penalty box. The game finished 4-3 on aggregate and Spain qualified for the European Championship Finals in Sweden at our expense.
The only word that comes close to describing how I felt for a long time after that game is numb! The thought of being just seconds away from taking our country to our first ever major Championship Finals has brought me to tears many times since. Nine months on, those same emotions have stirred whilst I am sat at home watching coverage of the European Championship Finals on TV.
In an attempt to spare my own feelings I contemplated not watching any of the tournament, but great coverage by the BBC and the constant mention of the teams and players on my Twitter feed have made it virtually impossible to avoid. Although it is difficult to watch knowing just how close we came to being there, I believe that it is too good an opportunity to miss. The only way to improve as an individual and indeed as a team is to learn from the best.
From what I have seen of the tournament so far France, Sweden and I have to say Spain have impressed me most. Some people were surprised by England’s defeat to Spain but they shouldn’t have been. Spain are a technically gifted team who work extremely hard for one another from the first to the very last second of the game, something both Scotland and England have learned the hard way!
France are so far demonstrating all of the qualities required to win a major tournament. They have looked strong in defence with Georges and Renard, creative going forward through Abily, Thiney and Necib and have a clinical striker in Delie.
I have also watched with interest as Sweden have improved game on game. For me, they have the player of the tournament so far in Caroline Segar who has covered every blade of grass and been at the heart of all that has been good from Sweden.
Germany may not have got the results they would have hoped for in their group games but even without performing at their best they have still qualified for the knockout stages and are a team that should not be written off just yet. This early in the tournament it is difficult to pick out the eventual winners but I would be shocked if it was a team other than France, Sweden or Germany.
Having to watch Euro 2013 on television at home as opposed to being in Sweden participating has brought bad memories and unwanted emotions from that fateful night in Madrid flooding right back. It makes it even more difficult to watch knowing that these are teams we have played and performed extremely well against recently.
This year alone we have drawn 4-4 with England, won 1-0 against the Netherlands, 2-1 against Italy and 3-2 against Iceland. It just makes me wonder how well we could have competed at Euro 2013.
Nine months on, the disappointment, anger and sadness from that defeat to Spain needs to continue to be my desire and motivation to improve and achieve going forward. It is with fresh drive and determination that I can now look forward to the start of the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Campaign which starts later this year. Canada 2015, Scotland is coming for you!!