Scotland moved up to 22 in the World Rankings today. That’s a move of 15 places from 37 in the last month or so, 3 places in front of Bosnia and Algeria and 6 places ahead of Ecuador (all of which have qualified for Brazil). The last time we reached such exalted status “wee” Broon was in charge and we were on our way to France 98.
It really makes a mockery of the whole FIFA system as in reality the top 24 teams will all be competing in the World Cup in June. A true reflection would have Scotland at 40-50, and that is being kind. Granted their seems to be a nice wee dose of optimism with Strachan following our end of group purple patch but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t merit a position in the relatively lofty heights of 22nd in the World. But will we take it?? Dam right, especially if it in imbibes the players with some sort of faux delusion of greatness and spurs us on to an historic win in Dortmund versus De Germans.
It is not inconceivable that wee further progress with a win in the coming friendly with Nigeria, move into the top 20 and beyond. It’s a pity this has no bearing on our Euro 2016 seeding with the draw already being made.
On what of the other pretenders??
Naturally the Spanish hold top spot as both World Cup and Euro Champ holders, followed by the Germans and Portuguese. Next their is the South American block of Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. The remaining top 10 is made up of Switzerland (yes), Italy and Greece (again, yes). England hover around at 11 with Holland, Chile, USA etc in and around the top 20.
It’s difficult to measure this against World Cup chances. Brazil are rightly the favourites for the trophy with the benefit of home crowds but i feel they will come up short especially if they lose Neymar or Oscar . Similarly Portugal would be captain-less and severley lacking without Ronaldo. You could probably go through all the main teams and pick out main players that would be missed with maybe the expectation of Belgium,although losing Hazard would be tough to contend with.
So I’ve created my own table (deliberately not including odds as its too difficult and fairly boring).
My Rankings based on World Cup chances :
1 ) GERMANY – although no European team has won the trophy in the Americas I feel that the Germans are favourites to win the trophy. Thanks mainly to a core of Bayern Munich and Dortmund stars but also with a couple of EPL favs and strong coach in Joachim Löw. They always make it to the latter stage, often to the semis and barring disaster or some sort of mitigated implosion will be in the final shake up.
2 ) ARGENTINA – With little Leo rampaging at will through hapless defences supported by Di Maria, Arguero and Lavezzi the Atgies have the best forward line and scoring potential to worry any defence. Victory in their neighbours back year would be doubly sweet as well.
3 ) COLOMBIA – Making their first World Cup since France 1998 the Colombians are sweating over superstar and talisman Radamel Falcoa who is still recovering from injury and has a 50/50 chance of playing in Brazil. Still, with Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez in attacking cover and James Rodriguez in midfield they should pass into the last 4 at least.
4 ) URUGUAY – Luis Suarez is the worlds in form goalscorer bagging goals every week for Liverpool. It is his chance to shine this summer on the biggest stage. Diego Forlan will be keen to impress in his last tournament and the brilliant Edison Cavani eager to bag some goals.
5 ) HOLLAND – SPAIN – PORTUGAL – I don’t honestly see any of these teams winning the World Cup but expect them to challenge in the last 8, depending on the draw. I feel the Spanish are reaching the end of an era and their players ageing, also other national managers wising up on how to combat the tiki taka football. Similarly, the Dutch may have Robben and Van Persie but will miss Strootman in the midfield. If Ronaldo can drag Portugal to the quarter finals without picking up suspension or injury it will be a victory in itself.
5 ) BRAZIL – Even with home crowds cheering their every move I can’t see the Samba Stars winning the trophy and once they start faltering these fans will be on their backs immediately. They are putting too much faith in Neymar who is not a match winning difference of a player.
Famously described as a toe poke by big chinned gobshite Jimmy Hill, Narey leathered home this opener versus Brazil in 1982. It sparked a brief belief that we might actually beat Brazil in football’s grandest tournament.
As per usual the hubris was cruelly dashed as Brazil got upset and ripped 4 past Alan Rough without reply.
Many Scots prefer the famous Archie Gemmil mazy versus Holland in 1978 but that is mainly to do with it’s inclusion in Trainspotting. For me, Narey’s is the best.
It was a fair strike right in front of the goal, drilled past a stranded Polish goalkeeper. It wasn’t as good as Narey’s in 1982 nor really important in the grand scheme of things but we’ll take it.
Scott Brown is chipping in with a few goals, lets hope he can also check his temper.
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.
It has been reported at length-but mainly in my head that the Brazil World Cup will be cancelled and awarded to Scotland. In light of the recent riots and demonstrations FIFA have declared Brazil to be no-football zone for the foreseeable future.
In recognition of their consistent underachievement and at times disastrous performance at tournaments (yes, we were at one time perennial qualifiers) Scotland have been given a historical bye into the tournament together with the award of hosts.
Despite being a small country, and with only 4 viable 20,000+ stadiums (Ibrox, Celtic Park,Hampden and Murrayfield) the calamitous Scottish Football Association (SFA) are confident they can pull it of. Indeed in many ways the matching of FIFA and the SFA is perfect.
At present details are brief but it is believed that in order to encourage competition and avoid complete embarrassment the hosts will be awarded one player from each of the confederations. However in order not to appear totally farcical the chosen players will be given new “Scottishized” names eg.Neymar becomes Nae-mare, and will undergo an intensive period of re-education in the Caledonian lifestyle, play and methods.
The addition of “see you Jimmy” Ginger wigs and small kilts were mooted as additions to the playing kit but in reality will not pass Health and Safety regulations.
In addition as hosts Scotland will be awarded with a 5 goal start to each game and their 1st round group will consist of the weakest qualified teams.
Scotland has a population of around 5 million, similar to that of Croatia and Norway. The league system is compromises of 4 leagues: the SPL, First, Second and Third Divisions, with a 12, 10, 10, 10 share of clubs. In reality only the top two divisions comprises full time professional clubs.
One shepherd should easily be able to supervise a flock of 42?
Not so in Scotland, where we need 2: The Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football League (SFL).
Both of which look like toppling our national game over the cliff edge.
The SPL is headed by Chief Executive, Neil Doncaster and SFL –all those out with the SPL- by David Longmuir. While both men come from different backgrounds they share the same ability to use political language and the passive voice. They rarely answer any questions directly and never stick their neck out.
Doncaster in particular has performed his role in a manner that would get most men shot in some countries. He has bundled his way through one mini crisis to another. It is amazing he still remains in his post.
Longmuir is viewed by many to be a Rangers double agent, protecting the interests of the stricken Ibrox club above all. His eye on an Ibrox post in the long term.
Into this mix we also have the Scottish Football Association (SFA) – or Sweet Fuck All, as this is what they do. They have a simple enough task:
“The ultimate responsibility for the control and development of football in Scotland”
In the last 20 years they have, in various ways, run the game into the ground. The national team has not qualified for a major tournament since 1998 and currently are in 66th position in the FIFA rankings, between Libya and Togo (the same Libya who are recovering from a civil war).
Tis all comes on the heels of the McLeish report: an in-depth investigation into Football in Scotland, commissioned by the SFA. In reality this turned out to be a total waste of time, money and effort as most of the recommendations have been ignored. The messages seemed clear: the Scottish game is on its death bed and change is needed immediately. Nothing happened.
The current football associations “controlling” league football in Scotland are a disgrace. Their procrastination and bumbling is beyond farcical and would not be permitted in any self-respecting football nation. However, our national game is a far cry from the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s.The footballing public has all but given up on these fools producing any sort of remedy to our ills and now we are staring oblivion in the face.
What comes next is anyone’s guess.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that a sniper on the roof of Hampden Park will do what the Scottish -and EPL and Europa League- defences have failed to do this season: stop Gareth Bale. (Disclaimer :This is not true of course).
The Welsh Wizard (sorry) has come a long way from the jinxed Spurs defender of old.
Legend has it he was to be farmed out to a Championship club a few years back as his albatross like affect was getting to much to bare, down White Hart Lane.
Hot now however. The horse faced youngster is impressing every super-club from Bayern to Barca, It seems he will have the pick of clubs come summer but not before he has ripped apart Scotland.
It’s difficult to predict what Strachan will do come Friday. The marauding Bale will likely have free reign and Scotland may have to double, or treble up on the galloping winger/defender if they wish to stifle him.
But even then, when Wales no doubt get a set piece outside the box Bale will step up and unleash one of his fabled “knuckleballs”, bamboozling the wall and Alan MacGregor.
Without Bale, Wales are ordinary even inferior to Scotland. Ramsay, Allen and Bellamy are over-rated and our midfield are more than a match for this trio.
Our only hope is the man on the grassy knoll (not true).
All this time I was deceiving myself, Scotland are going to Brazil after all.
Tonight’s historic 1-0 win against Estonia signifies a seismic change in our fortunes.
To be fair we had a couple of quality performances from Charlie Mulgrew, Chris Burke and Robert Snodgrass especially.
There were many changes in the second half and while no-one set the heather alight it was a solid performance.
Unfortunately every single one of our Group A opponents won as well. Some emphatically.
Croatia 4 – 0 South Korea
Cyprus 1 – 3 Serbia
Macedonia 3 – 0 Denmark
Belgium 2 – 1 Slovakia
Wales 2 – 1 Austria
But a win is a win. Everything movies to the home game against Wales. Lets see what happens.
Gordon Strachan has named his squad to face Estonia next week.
Despite the previous managers reservations in picking any 3rd Division, Rangers players Strachan has pulled in Lee Wallace.
The squad has a familiar feel with the majority of players coming from the Championship and EPL.
Chris Burke returns after a long hiatus and Kenny Miller is included along with no fewer than 8 attackers.
Scotland play Estonia next Wednesday at Pittodrie Stadium (Aberdeen).
Matt Gilks, David Marshall, Allan McGregor
Phil Bardsley, Christophe Berra, Gary Caldwell, Grant Hanley, Alan Hutton, Russell Martin, Charlie Mulgrew, Lee Wallace, Andy Webster
Charlie Adam, Scott Brown, Chris Burke, Kris Commons, James Forrest, James McArthur, James Morrison, Matt Philips, Robert Snodgrass
Steven Fletcher, Ross McCormack, Jamie Mackie, Shaun Maloney, Kenny Miller, Steven Naismith, Jordan Rhodes
In the midst of league reconstruction blundering and general mismanagement, the Scottish Football Association has at last acted and confirmed Gordon Strachan as the national team manager.
It’s a sensible and popular choice.
Strachan represented Scotland 50 times, including in the Spain 82 and Mexico 86 World Cups and is best remembered for his fine goal against West Germany and “leg over” celebration.
At club level he was a member of Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen and early Manchester United teams and the leader of the Leeds United team that won the last English First Division title.
After retirement he managed Coventry City, Southampton and Middlesborough but was most successful with Celtic where he won the title 3 times and secured two last 16 Champions League places.
Strachan is also a regular pundit for the BBC and is known for his acerbic wit and one liners.
Given that World Cup qualification is more or less impossible Strachan will be tasked with reinvigorating a jaded Tartan Army and providing hope for the France 2016 qualification campaign.
This will be no easy task but it is hard to see be as shambolic as previous incumbent, Craig Levein who masterminded tow dreadful campaigns and Scotland’s tumble down the FIFA rankings.