After the recent doom and gloom of all our club sides being out of Europe before the group stages it’s time to look ahead to our international double header at Hampden. We play Czech Republic on Saturday 3rd September and Lithuania on Tuesday 6th September, which are must win games if we want to be at Poland/Ukraine 2012.
Starting with our game against Czech Republic I thought I’d look at our recent games against them.
Last March we played them in a friendly at Hampden in our 1st game under Craig Levein and won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Scott Brown. I’m sure a repeat of that would make the Tartan Army pleased and have the team confident ahead of the Lithuania match.
The away game in this set of qualifiers was an experiment gone wrong as Levein opted to play a 4-6-0 with no strikers and basically played for a 0-0 result, which back fired on us big time as Hubnik scored in the 69th minute and left us chasing the game. Levein was rightly criticized for his negative approach and refused to admit he had got it wrong. Whatever happens in this qualifier, we must win to set us up for the Lithuania match. Their main threats are likely to be Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky, who I’ve always thought is a better international than club player, Bordeaux’s Jaroslav Plašil and Galatasaray’s Milan Baros, who previously played with Liverpool, Aston Villa and Lyon.
The second match against Lithuania is one that I feel we should win quite comfortably, like the last time we played them at home on 8th September 2007. On that day we won 3-1 with goals from Kris Boyd, Stephen McManus and James McFadden. None of those scorers will feature in the double header due to loss of form or, in McFadden’s case, him currently not having a club. We also played Lithuania at home in October 2003 and our current captain Darren Fletcher scored his 1st goal in only his second cap for Scotland in a 1-0 victory.
The away qualifier in this campaign against Lithuania saw us draw 0-0 in a game where Scotland were too negative in their approach, though at least they played with a striker. Quite a few of Lithuania’s current squad have played in SPL such as Andrius Skerla for Dunfermline, current Hearts players captain Marius Žaliūkas and Arvydas Novikovas, ex Hearts players Deividas Česnauskis and Saulius Mikoliūnas. The latter I’m sure will get a hostile reception from the Scotland fans after his dive in a previous qualifier, in an attempt to win a penalty.
I expect Scotland will line up in a 4-5-1 formation and my thoughts on the line up are that they will play: A McGregor, P Bardsley, G Caldwell, D Wilson, S Crainey, J Morrison, S Brown, D Fletcher, C Adam, S Naismith and K Miller.
Personally I think we need to win both these games to give us any chance of qualifying for Euro 2012 and I am optimistic that Scotland will be successful, though I’m sure there will be some nail-biting moments in our search for the victories required. Let’s hope Scotland can succeed where our club teams have failed and make the nation proud.