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Scotland are preparing for the biggest two matches in their history over the coming week as they take on Russia in a two-legged play-off tie for the right to qualify for the 2009 UEFA Women's Championships.
Kim Little is set to play a major role as the Scots attempt to book a place in next year's Finals in Finland and she told Women's Soccer Scene: "Everyone is very excited about it and we are playing good football.
"I am really looking forward to the two games and hoping to give the Russians a good game. It is the biggest game in the history of women's football in this country as we are just two games from the Euros."
Scotland booked their place in spectacular style last month with a resounding 6-0 win over Slovakia and Kim feels that their place in the play-offs is fully justified. "At the start of the group, our aim was to finish in a play-off place," she said. "We didn't start too well when we drew with Portugal in our opening game but we picked up from there. We went into the Slovakia game knowing beforehand that if we won, we would qualify for the play-offs and we played well and scored six goals, which was really good."
Now attention must be turned to Russia but for Scotland, and Kim, they will be familiar opponents. "We played them back in March and they won 3-2 in a tight match," she said. "It was a good game and we could have got something from it.
"We know we will be underdogs going into the two games, in fact Russia were one of the teams I was not to have drawn but we will take it. We are not expected to win but it would be a great achievement if we do it."
However Scotland will have to play the home leg without their most famous player and taliswoman, Julie Fleeting, who is missing the game through suspension for picking up two bookings. "It definitely wasn't a yellow card (against Slovakia), it was for nothing really," insists Kim. "Hopefully Julie will be back for the second game but she will be around for the first one and it is still good to have her with us. It is a shame because she has scored in her last two games for Scotland and has been playing really well for both club and country.
"It will be a good opportunity for a younger player to come in and show what she can do at the highest level, maybe Diana Barry who has been in fantastic form for her club recently."
So what would be considered to be a good result for Scotland on Sunday? "Not to lose," replies Kim. "Going over to Russia when behind would not be a good thing - we shall be going for a win but a draw would be an acceptable result as it will make the second leg a one-off game."
If Scotland make it through, it would mark an excellent couple of months for the country by adding to Glasgow City's achievement of becoming the first Scottish club to reach the Second Qualifying Round in the UEFA Women's Cup. "They lost all three games but I hear they gave a good account of themselves," says Kim, who was playing for Arsenal at the same stage. "They only lost 1-0 to the Russian team which won the group and gave Frankfurt a really good game as well.
"It just shows that Scottish football is improving all the time and we are catching up on the bigger teams.
"If we get to Finland, it would bring a lot more publicity in Scotland and people would be more aware of the women's game in our country as it shows you can make these tournaments and compete with the best sides. We have seen England get to the World Cup and European Championships and we want to be there too - it would be fantastic for British football as a whole if Scotland and Ireland can both win their play-off matches."
For Kim, regarded as one of the hottest young properties in European football, playing in the Finals would present a great chance for her to enhance her ever growing reputation but she is also mindful that it would be a great reward for some of Scotland's longer serving players. "When you are younger, you always want to reach these Finals," she says. "I am still only 18 so I should have more opportunities but it would be a pinnacle for players such as Julie Fleeting, Shelley Kerr and Pauline Hamill to play in Euros and great for them as they have been fantastic servants to the women's game."
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