Unbeaten in our last 5 matches, which has included away wins to Croatia, Macedonia and Poland it seems Scotland are in a long awaited purple patch of relative success. It’s a pity it doesn’t really mean anything.
Gordon Strachan has come in at the tail end of a failed campaign and instilled a coherent playing style and format that could see us qualify for a major tournament for the first time since France 1998. Although the team is not changed much since last year the inclusion of Ikecha Anya, Chris Burke and Ross McCormack together with a spattering of new starlets has made us at least competitive and no longer group cannon fodder.
World Cup qualification was scuppered long ago-before it had really started, thanks in the main to Craig Levein and a squad bereft of confidence and belief. Scotland supporters shall once again watch through the TV cameras and will have no team to cheer on in Brazil (barring those playing England). But although Scotland’s group was no means kind with the exception of Germany, Scotland should be confident of at least play-off berth.
Group D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar.
With the top 2 qualifying for France 2016 Scotland’s main competitors should be The Republic of Ireland and Poland although Georgia are no dummies. Gibraltar should be the whipping boys in their maiden campaign but remember the Faroe Isles??
The Republic of Ireland are similar to Scotland in that they have no main superstars but rely more in a combined team effort of Premier League and Championship players. Their main danger lies in new coach Martin O’Neill who has a detailed knowledge of Scottish football from his time at Celtic. The ex-Aston Villa coach will be eager to impress in his job, especially as if mooted, Scotland’s home time is staged in Celtic Park. Robbie Keane is still a threat despite being in the twilight of a prolific career and Shane Long and Wes Hoolahan are dangerous players given the opportunity. Added to this Ireland have the two Scottish born midfielders playing for Everton in James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady.
Poland were without Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski last Wednesday and should be a different outfit with their stars back come September. Poland have strength in the players they have plying their trade in the Bundesliga but little else. Łukasz Piszczek of Dortmund and Ludovic Obraniak of Werder Bremen give the squad a stronger spine than both Scotland and Ireland but in truth apart from that they are not overly powerful.
It would be wrong to discount Georgia on the grounds of their squad. They do not have many players in competitive leagues but they will definitely be a match for Scotland on their home turf. In my opinion the games against Georgia could be Scotland’s banana skin. Too often Scotland have stumbled against the so called lesser nations, we should not treat them lightly.
Germany will win the group with a couple of games to spare. With major players in the EPL and Bundesliga regularly playing in the latter stages of the Champions League each one of the squad members are worth 15 million plus. Whether coach, Joachim Löw hangs around after the World Cup remains to be seen. A point in Germany or Hampden would be quite a coup for Scotland, in reality keeping the goals down to 1 or 2 would be a success.
Gibraltar?? Hammer them into the ground both home and away as the goal difference may be crucial.