Scotland’s World Cup qualifying campaign has been epitomised by fine margins to such an extent that they will the relish the clear-cut nature of its conclusion.
The scenario is simple: a win for Gordon Strachan’s team in Slovenia will secure second place in Group F. Bosnia’s defeat by Belgium on Saturday means a play-off berth would thereby be guaranteed. Given the stark Scottish failures of recent qualifying attempts even that represents commendable progress.
A last-minute equaliser against Lithuania last October, while barely celebrated at the time, provided an indicator of things to come. Scotland’s World Cup dreams could have been dashed in March before the substitute Chris Martin – earlier booed on to the Hampden field – notched an 88th-minute winner to down Slovenia. The subsequent visit of England to Glasgow was defined by late madness; Scotland edged ahead with free-kicks from Leigh Griffiths before Harry Kane punished multiple concentration lapses during stoppage time. Martin Skrtel’s own goal, such a huge moment in Group F, arrived in the dying embers of Scotland hosting Slovakia on Thursday. The recurring theme perhaps means nobody should expect a straightforward game in Ljubljana on Sunday. Strachan, rightly, draws inspiration from it all.
“It shows we have a fitness level,” said Strachan on Saturday evening. Alshon Jeffery Youth Jersey “People talk about mental strength but I could put you guys out there and I know you’d try as hard as you could to get a victory for Scotland. But you couldn’t do it because you are not fit enough.
“You’d give it your best but you’d be knackered after 20 minutes. So you have to have the physical strength to keep the mental strength going. Our players have shown they have that in their locker. The fans know we have it in our locker as well.”
This is a position Strachan would have gladly accepted before a ball was kicked in the group. “I think so, yeah,” he added. “I think we all agreed at the start of the group that, http://www.eaglesofficialsshop.com/Brandon_Graham_Jersey_Cheap with what England have got, second place would be a smashing achievement. It’ll be another long and nervous night, I think.”
Strachan’s own position and popularity has of course been intrinsically linked to the recurring moments of salvation. The Scotland manager has been elevated from being only seconds away from holding an untenable post to the present, where he could be a national icon. Since Craig Brown led the Scots to France in 1998 – their last finals appearance – Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, Alex McLeish, George Burley and Craig Levein have sampled varying degrees of painful failure to the point where the job came with the asterisk of a health warning.
It was widely assumed Strachan would call time on his tenure at the conclusion of this campaign. Such an upturn in fortunes has, however, Aaron Sanchez Youth Jersey triggered debate over whether the Scottish FA should move heaven and earth to retain the former Celtic manager, whatever Sunday’s outcome for Scotland. The man himself is calm, with his players apparently the same. “I just think there is the right balance about them and I really don’t see a difference in them,” he said.
Strachan remains single-minded over issues of selection. There was a shoulder shrug from the 60-year-old last weekend when it emerged Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie was unwilling to take his named place in the Scotland squad because of unhappiness at a lack of playing time. While this probably reflects far more poorly on Ritchie than his international manager, Strachan has never offered platitudes to, or chased, players.
There was also the earlier and unorthodox decision to field Kieran Tierney, http://www.officialbluejaysproshop.com/Darwin_Barney_Jersey Celtic’s outstanding left-back, on the right side of defence so as to accommodate both he and Andy Robertson. A makeshift back four that also includes Charlie Mulgrew, plying his trade in League One, has not conceded in three games.