Ifeoma Dieke fitness battle ahead of World Cup tie

SCOTLAND will make a last-minute decision on whether central defender Ifeoma Dieke is fit to play in today’s World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Scotlands Jane Ross holds off the challenge of Polands Natalia Chudzik at Fir Park. Picture: SNSScotlands Jane Ross holds off the challenge of Polands Natalia Chudzik at Fir Park. Picture: SNS
Scotlands Jane Ross holds off the challenge of Polands Natalia Chudzik at Fir Park. Picture: SNS

Although she trained yesterday at the Bilino Polje stadium in Zenica, the 33-year-old has a calf niggle.

Anna Signeul is already without Rachel Corsie, who returned to her club, Notts County, after receiving a second yellow card in the tournament against Poland on Saturday. If Dieke doesn’t make it, the Scotland coach could switch midfielder Megan Sneddon to the back line alongside Jenny Beattie, or bring in Eilish McSorley of Glasgow City. Another young defender, Siobhan Hunter of Hibs, is a late addition to the squad.

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The feeling among the Scots is that any problems in central defence are better to come now than before the crucial game against Group 4 favourites Sweden at Fir Park in June. Bosnia were beaten 7-0 at that venue in September, and today – on paper at least – should represent more of a potential banana skin than a sustained attacking threat.

The Bosnians have taken just two points from their opening four group games, the second from a 1-1 draw in the Faroe Islands on Saturday. Nevertheless, as Sweden nearly found to their cost, they are capable of defending capably against the best teams on home soil. Despite dominating the possession and goal attempts, the Swedes required a penalty by star striker Lotta Schelin to return home with all three points.

There is a good playing surface at today’s venue, which is the home of NK Celik. That should be to Scotland’s advantage after playing on a heavy, rain-soaked pitch against Poland on Saturday.

It took second-half goals by Lisa Evans and Leanne Crichton to break the resistance of the Poles at Fir Park and Signeul hopes her players will show patience today.

“When we have had Bosnia scouted they have had ten players in the box at times and that is really difficult to play against,” she said. “In these circumstances it is easy to be frustrated like we were in the first half against Poland. We have to be more patient and try not to make the killer pass too early. That can result in errors so we need to take a step up from the Poland game. Bosnia play more narrowly so we need to try and get through them on the wings. We did that in the home game when Lisa, especially, was so successful.”

The game is expected to be another milestone for Rangers midfielder Sneddon, who is poised to win her 125th cap. The 28-year-old has a tireless workrate, as well as reading the game well and being an astute passer of the ball.

Sweden, who also have maximum points but have played a game less, are not in action today so the Scots have the opportunity to stretch their Group 4 advantage to six points.