The penultimate round of qualifiers for the world cup start on Thursday as Scotland take on Slovakia at Hampden park. Lying fourth in the table, but only one point off their opponents in second, Scotland have a more than realistic chance of qualifying. Here’s why they can Win…
Firstly, it’s a home tie for the Scots. At international level a home fixture can prove crucial, especially in a do-or-die match. It will be a powerful rendition of Flower of Scotland, as it always is, with fifty two thousand fans knowing the severity of the fixture. The famous Hampden roar will get the players fired up, and if not then having something to play for, will.
Scotland haven’t played at a major tournament since the world cup in ’98. After being the only home nation side not to qualify for Euro 2016, this is a great chance to make some history. Best of all for the Scots, their fate is in their own hands. A home tie against Slovakia on Thursday, followed by an away trip to a (weaker) Slovenia side. With Slovenia having to travel to Wembley to face England before their tie with Scotland, fans have reason to be optimistic.
It’s all well and good having a passionate crowd and something to play for, but you’ve got to have the side to win a game. Scotland have just that. Up top, they have Leigh Griffiths. Although not scoring bundles of goals like usual, he has been prolific when started. Three goals and three assists in his last three games for Scotland, almost single handedly dragging them back into contention. three goals in four starts for club side Celtic shows he’s in good form too.
But you can’t win a crunch game with just one in form striker, you’ve got to be solid at the back. Conceding just four goals in six games (six goals coming in disastrous back-to-back fixtures) it’s fair to say Scotland are just that. ‘Keeper Craig Gordon is the perfect example, winning his fiftieth cap on Thursday night. He has earned high praises from manager Gordon Strachan this week with the Scotland boss talking about how “he’s a better goalkeeper now” than he’s ever been before.
On top of all of this, Scotland boast an array of Premier league, Championship and Scottish premiership talent. The likes of Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney causing havoc down both flanks. Ikechi Anya posing problems down the left hand side with lightning pace, and the quality of Barry Bannan on the ball. Earning praises from the Scotland boss, describing him as “magnificent” in recent weeks.
Of course, it would be foolish to underestimate the talent that Slovakia boast, they are second in the group after all. Especially with the likes of talisman Marek Hamsik in midfield. But it has to be said with an inform striker, an experienced keeper, premier league talent in the squad and a roaring atmosphere at Hampden Park. With everything on the line, it’s hard to look past Scotland in this fixture.