Scotland coach Keith Joss said:”We’re trying to keep international hockey in the minds of the players. It’s about keeping our programme ticking over.”
Several recent opponents have requested to face Scotland in support of their own challenging preparations for Olympic qualifiers or other high profile events such as the Champions Trophy in Germany. With just a few Scottish women training for Beijing 2008 with GB, Joss makes Scotland’s focus clear: “It’s all about gearing up for the next European Championships in 2009, which will come around in no time at all.
“Apart from the Celtic Cup in July, we might not get the chance to play that many international matches so we’re going to take full advantage of the ones we get.”
Russia currently sits three spots below Scotland in the World Ranking, and are preparing for their Beijing Olympic Qualifier from 19th-27th of April on their home turf in Kazan. They’ll face the likes of USA, India, France, Belgium and Netherlands Antilles.
Russia not only has motivation looking forward to their Olympic qualification but the last two times they’ve come against the Scots they’ve lost 3-1. The real clincher was for the gold medal at the last European Trophy in Lithuania which placed Scotland in the elite A division, or European Championships, for 2009. Joss, expecting rearing Russians, calmly stated: “Russia may be motivated to play hard against us but I’d say we were fairly comfortable the last few times we met them on the pitch; it never looked like we were going to lose.”
Despite the confidence, Joss gives credit where credit is due: “Russia has some players who can do some damage. The Chegurdaeva twins are still playing for them at 39 years of age and are key players; it’s incredible. I wouldn’t say, based on this, they are a more experienced side but they will have a good mix of seasoned players along with young players who have next to no international experience.”
Scotland’s confidence should be steady after a good performance against current European Champions, Germany, last month, Joss elaborated: “We’re very happy with the progress we made against the Germans and we hope to carry that forward to these matches. We want to show what we learned in Mannheim and go forward, putting it into practice against Russia.”
Scotland will be missing a few key players such as: Sam Judge (Milne Craig Western) is out due to a broken thumb she suffered at the European Cup Winners Cup in Paris; Julie Mitchell (Giffnock) who injured her knee versus Germany; Catriona Forrest who is attending a league game with her Dutch club, Klein Zwitzerland, in Holland; and Becky Ward (Dundee Wanderers) due to other commitments.
On a high note, Holly Cram (Milne Craig Western) will be celebrating her 50th Cap for Scotland.
Friday’s match pushes back at 18:30 then Saturday the squads hit the pitch at 16:00.