Will Scotland end 20 years of hurt?
Frank Monkhouse | 30 March 2017
Tartan Army demands a place in Russia
The Tartan Army saw a battling performance from their heroes at Hampden on Sunday evening, the type of display that has been missing from Gordon Strachan’s side for far too long.
Scotland have been so poor in recent months in fact that the vital World Cup qualifying win over Slovenia was played out in front of a national stadium that was more than half-empty. Chris Martin climbed off the bench to score the winning goal after a game of pressing football from the hosts, but even the match winner was boo’d by those in attendance when he came onto the pitch.
Scotland’s search for a scorer goes on
It’s not the behaviour Scotland players are used to from the stands, but no one can blame supporters for thinking enough is enough. They have watched their neighbours progress while their team have gone backwards.
A number of Celtic players were included in the starting line-up for the hosts – some fared better than others. Kieran Tierney was fantastic, Scott Brown gave his usual gutsy display, but Leigh Griffiths was poor up top. He was unlucky not to score, and did get into the right positions, but hit the bar when it looked easier to score. The nation’s search for a reliable goal scorer continues.
That 1-0 win over Slovenia was fully deserved, and the points gained moved them to fourth in the table. There’s only Lithuania and Malta currently worse off, but Scotland have just two points to find to match Slovakia in second-place. Not ideal, but they have found themselves in much worse situations at this stage of competitions.
Can Scotland get to Russia?
Can Scotland qualify for the World Cup? It would be their first major tournament since France 98. We will get closer to an answer when they are back in action on June 10th in Glasgow. To give themselves every chance of going through they must win at home against Group F leaders, and old enemies, England. Easier said than done.
The Three Lions are out in front after five games played, and looking like a side who can start to make their travel arrangements. They have six points more than the Scots, with an unbeaten record of four wins and a draw, with that run including a 3-0 victory over Strachan’s crew in November, achieved at Wembley with minimal fuss.
Fans can take a crumb of comfort from the head-to-head stats between the Auld Enemy, currently standing at Scotland 41-48 England, with 24 draws. They haven’t beaten England in competitive football since 1999 however, when Don Hutchinson scored a famous winner at Wembley in the European Championships. That effort was ruled out by two from Paul Scholes at Hampden.
Coral have the early betting up for that match and go 11/4 on Scotland to get the win needed to breathe life into their campaign, while blowing the race for top-spot apart. Traders haven’t given the blues much hope of playing in next year’s World Cup however, giving 6/1 on them to qualify, while England are nailed on 1/100.