It’s a cruel fact but while the best teams in the world concern themselves with the coming World Cup in South Africa Scotland have to look much further ahead and consider the European Championship campaign starting in September.
Qualification for major tournaments is a faded memory for many Scottish supporters, not since France 1998 have we graced the higher echelons of football competition. From 1974 -1990 the Scots qualified for every World Cup and attended the European Championships in 1992 and 1996. In contrast he last 12 years have been very lean.
Last week’s draw was neither kind nor cruel more a reflection of how far we have fallen from the International scene.
Spain are the groups clear favourites. Currently ranked 1st in the World and holders of the European Championship trophy they boast a spine of Barcelona galactico’s and the best stars from La Liga and the English Premiership. Any points gained from these matches would be a bonus if not a miracle. However, remember Paris?
The Czech Republic are our main competitors for 2nd place. They no longer have the likes of Poborsky or Neved and seem also to be in a transitional phase having also failed to qualify for the world cup. Despite this, they are a strong team and capable of defeating the higher ranked European nations. A friendly between Scotland and the Czech’s in March should give a clearer indication on the merits and strengths of both teams.
Again, Lithuania have been grouped with Scotland in a qualification campaign, for the 4th time a row so they should hold no surprises. Also a fair number of players have played in Scotland given that Hearts director, Vladimir Romanov hails from the former Soviet state. However Scotland’s results in these areas of Europe have been mixed of late.
Liechtenstein on paper are the whipping boys of the group however such hubris is a fatal mistake in regards to Scotland. No matter if we cannot acquire full points against the European minnows we may as well forget all.
The fixtures are as well as can be hoped. Getting 6 points on board in the first two matches against the “lesser” teams may inspire confidence and properly prepare the team for sterner tests against the Czechs and Spanish respectively. The double header against the Czechs and Lithuanians at Hampden in September will have a major bearing on successful qualification.
The last game against Spain in the Bernebau?
Well let’s hope they have already qualified by then and Sapin field a team of un-tested youths.
Friday 3 September – Lithuania (away)
Tuesday 7 September – Liechtenstein (home)
Friday 8 October – Czech Republic (away)
Tuesday 12 October – Spain (home)
Saturday 3 September – Czech Republic (home)
Tuesday 6 September – Lithuania (home)
Saturday 8 October – Liechtenstein (away)
Tuesday 11 October – Spain (away)