Go back seven days and there was the expectation that we would now be sitting in second place in our Euro qualifying group. The fact we had only won four points in our initial four games was quietly ignored, as international fever took hold. As a nation we reverted to the belief that it is our right to beat most teams that are put in front of us, and teams like the Czech Republic and Lithuania were exactly the calibre of opponents that should be brushed aside. Obviously this belief was misguided.
Saturday’s game against the Czech Republic finished 2-2. With such high hopes, I am reluctant to say that we won a point, but nonetheless we moved onto five points from five games. Hardly play off material. The headlines after the game focused on the performance of the referee, with a dodgy penalty being awarded to the Czechs and Christophe Berra being booked for simulation after a borderline penalty claim at the other end. Forget theses incidents and forget the referee, we have to admit that a draw was the most we deserved from the night.
Tuesday’s opponents were Lithuania, who had unexpectantly found themselves in the play off race after our draw on Saturday. Many ignored our poor performance on Saturday and instead felt that a victory was a given, especially since we surely couldn’t be hurt by refereeing mistakes for two matches in a row. On the night, we did play better than Saturday and did deserve the 1-0 victory, although there were tense times near the end as we inevitably dropped deep to defend our slender victory.
Today we find ourselves sitting in third, two points behind Czech Republic and the play off spot, with two games remaining.
The penultimate round sees Scotland travel to Lichtenstein and the Czech Republic are playing at home against Spain. I think the majority would agree that two away wins are likely. If that were to happen, then we would be one point ahead of the Czechs, with one round of games left.
The final round of games see Scotland travel to Spain and Czech Republic travel to Lithuania. We do have a habit of raising expectations in the run up to matches against clearly superior opponents, and I expect no different in the run up to this one, but I still see us coming away with nothing. The Czechs do seem to be favourites for their clash, but hopefully Lithuania can make full use of the home advantage.
Despite the poor conclusion of our recent double header, and despite only having eight points from six games, there is still a chance of finishing in second and maybe making the play off stages, although I suspect that it’s no longer in our hands and Lithuania may have to come to our rescue.