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Small walking tall for Scotland

Published: Wednesday 26 May 2010, 10.55CET
Rachael Small's on-the-pitch presence belies both her name and stature, and the assured Scotland skipper believes her team will similarly stand up to the might of Germany tomorrow.
by John Atkin
from Skopje

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Published: Wednesday 26 May 2010, 10.55CET

Small walking tall for Scotland

Rachael Small's on-the-pitch presence belies both her name and stature, and the assured Scotland skipper believes her team will similarly stand up to the might of Germany tomorrow.

After losing their Group A opener to England, a meeting with a Germany side that overwhelmed them 7-0 last time they met is hardly a welcome proposition for Scotland − yet skipper Rachael Small is relishing it.

Defeat was disappointing, especially as we were playing England, but the mood in the camp is very good
Rachael Small
I've got this far, doing what I do best, and I'm not going to change my game for anyone
Rachael Small

Standing at a little over 1.5m, Small lives up to her name in stature if not nature – the limp she carries around the tournament quarters attests to that. There was plenty for the neutrals to cheer about at the Železarnica Stadium on Monday as Scotland lost 3-1 to holders England, not least four well-taken strikes, but no applause was louder than the one that greeted Small's brave block to deny Toni Duggan a certain goal.

"Defeat was disappointing, especially as we were playing England, but the mood in the camp is very good – the tournament is not over for us," said the defender, who is hopeful of recovering from the ankle knock she received making that intervention. "Germany are obviously a top team as well so we want to challenge ourselves and push on as far as we can go."

It will be a challenge. Two years ago Small was in the Scotland team beaten 7-0 by Germany in the group stage, a third game in six days proving one too many for a team that had hitherto held their own. This time, says Small, it will be different: "We've progressed both as a team and individually. Hopefully we can show how much better we've become. We're a lot better technically and we feel we're a lot fitter as well so we'll be able to last the 90 minutes."

Germany eased to a 4-1 victory against Italy on Monday, the Azzurrine back line unable to shackle an attack spearheaded by the towering Kyra Malinowski, scorer of five goals in the showpiece of last year's Under-17 finals. Just how will Small cope with a player a head taller than her? "I'm alongside players that are bigger, like Jennifer Beattie, so they take care of that side of the game and I'm there to sweep up," the 18-year-old explained.

"I focus on reading the game, play how I play: I don't feel I need to stand up to bigger players. If I cannot win a challenge I'll hang back and wait until I can. I've got this far, doing what I do best, and I'm not going to change my game for anyone." That sounds like fatherly advice, and it could well be as her dad is in Skopje to support her, the latest leg in an odyssey that has taken him to Bulgaria and the Netherlands this season.

He is the public face of an army of supporters made up of friends, family and a generous employer at the solicitors she works at, fitting training around a full-time job. Can she justify the strain? "This is where it's got me; to Macedonia, so I feel it is well worth the time and effort. A couple of years ago teams might have written us off, thinking Scotland weren't ready to compete with the top sides like England, Germany and Italy – all previous winners, but now it's different."

Last updated: 12/11/12 17.44CET

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