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Scotland will be competing in the UEFA Under-19 Championships for only the second time in their history next week and Molly McKean insists that they will not be going there to make up the numbers.
After an eventful year which also saw a change of manager, Scotland qualified for the Finals from a group which also involved Denmark, Switzerland and Belarus, and the Spartans (formerly Edinburgh Ladies) midfielder is confident they can make an impact at the highest level.
"I can't wait - it's the biggest thing that has happened to me," Molly told Women's Soccer Scene. "We have gone through an awful lot this season and the team qualified despite a lot of injuries, so it is such a big achievement to be there.
"Although it is the first time this squad has been together this season, most of us know each other from under-15 level upwards. We have got a really good team spirit, the best I have known when with Scotland, we are all friends and get on well together. We haven't trained a lot in preparations but things are going well, we beat the under-23s 2-1 in a friendly recently and are hoping to go to the Finals fresh and ready."
Scotland have been drawn in a very tough group which also includes Germany, England and Sweden, but Molly is not fazed by the task which awaits them. "We think we can do it," she says. "Our aim is to win the first two games as we want to get to the semi finals."
One match in particular stands out for the whole Scotland squad. "All of the other teams play a different style but England's will be similar to ours," adds Molly. "We will be treating that one a bit more seriously as it is a big game and they are the Auld Enemy!
"We've played all of the teams before, Sweden and Germany were in our group last year. We drew with Sweden and lost a tight game to Germany - who went on to win it - so we know what to expect from the games.
"Everyone in the squad has been training individually and working very hard. We are going into the tournament as outsiders and anyone on the outside would be expecting us to just relax and play, but we are going to put pressure on ourselves to do well. We want to reach the semis and we believe we can."
Scotland were forced to change their coach midway through the campaign with Ritchie Wilson taking over the reins from Tony Gevaise. "It's not always easy changing when you have a new coach, as he will come in with fresh ideas and tactics," admits Molly, "but we are managing to adapt and we feel we have got a special squad. Ritchie is a really nice guy - he is settling in fine and we are just getting used to the changes."
The Scotland squad has been boosted by the inclusion of three full internationals - Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie and Natalie Ross. "They have all been in the senior squad but none of them have experienced this kind of tournament," says Molly, "but we are pleased to have them! There are a few young players in the squad and having those three players will be a big help as it will be up another level from the group stages."
For Molly, the tournament will be the biggest moment of her career to date and she is relishing the opportunity to play on the big stage. "This is what I have been dreaming for since I started playing football," she smiles. I was so happy when we qualified and it is the best thing ever to have happened to me - everyone in the squad was over the moon when we knew we were there.
"It's also a great moment for my parents who have supported me so much and for them to be there, as well as the other players' parents who will be watching us in the games.
"We want to show everyone that we can still do it after all that happened on the way, and want do to well for our former coach Tony - who was like a second father to us - as well as our current coach Ritchie. It's a great achievement for Scotland to reach these Finals and want to make history."
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