After a positive period in Spain, the last stage of our 20-day camp took us Glasgow where we met Austria. And then on to Lille, for a final clash against France in the last stage of the European Championship qualification rounds.
The team morale was high as it always is when we hit home soil, and off the back of an easy victory against Portugal it couldn’t have got any better!
Our last performance against Austria back in October was one to be proud of we only lost by 10 and a repeat of this would have satisfied us all. We continued to work on our 7v6 tactic that had proved helpful in Spain and did our homework on the freakishly tall Austrian players.
The Scottish crowd were electric and we started the game almost perfectly with three quick goals from Amondine Webb on the line. But despite our efforts in attack we still had a long way to go. We weren’t efficient enough 6 against 6 and only managed to score 17 in 60 minutes; this wasn’t good enough.
However it seemed the Austrians were not in such great form in attack either, we managed to keep them down to 23 goals thanks to an unbelievable performance from Sarah Hargreaves in goal and some nice defence play from us.
The scoreboard showed a result of 23-17 after 60minutes. To only have lost by 6 to Austria could be an even better achievement than winning against Portugal and the best result of a British handball team so far, something for us to be proud of heading towards our next ordeal.
So, our last game of the campaign saw us travel to Lille where we met France, who are currently ranked number two in the world. They featured the best player in the world 2009, plus an army of 1,500 French spectators - something not many of us had been a part of so far.
In the midst of all the excitement and nerves prior to the game we had lost one of our two goalkeepers Laura Innes through injury with three slipped discs in her lower back, and there was no chance of a miracle recovery before the game. This rocked the boat a little as we counted on Sarah Hargreaves 100 per cent in the goal with no back up.
Fortunately our only goalkeeper gave it her all and gave another spectacular display in front of another electric crowd, as France surprisingly failed to put the ball in the back of the net on many clear chances.
Regardless of Hargreaves’ awesome performance we seemed overwhelmed in the opening stages of the game and may as well have not been there. The French were all over us as we felt helpless in front of thousands of spectators.
After a bad opening spell we kept our heads held high and managed to pull it together. We were down 16-8 at half time which wasn’t as bad as it could have been had we not picked up the pace.
I and Britt Goodwin, playing on the left wing, managed to beat the goalkeeper on many occasions from our position. The same came from Ewa Pallies breaking through from the back position. But it was still an inconsistent attack and too many technical mistakes meant there was no chance of us competing with France and we lost the match with a big margin 34-15.
One of our main objectives was to keep them under 40 goals but only scoring 15 in 60 minutes felt as if we didn’t really achieve it.
We of course didn’t qualify for the European Championships after losing all our matches to Iceland, Austria and France. We didn’t at first hand expect to qualify. This is not something that we will dwell on, we have learned a lot by playing these nations and improved a heck of a lot each time we have competed against them.
We also have more knowledge on what we have to do to be as good as nations of their kind and one day will beat them just as much as they beat us. This is what we will take from this campaign.
Overall, a fantastic three-week camp with experience from all different levels and styles of play, something that we will take with us on our road to 2012.
Slovenia is who we will meet next at the end of June. We will play them three times during the week and hope to take our success from the last month with us!