It’s going to be a challenge qualifying for Euro 2020. But it is far from impossible. Despite a disappointing set of results recently, which resulted in the sacking of manager Alex McLeish, the Scottish players must believe it can only get better from here. Before the surprise loss to Kazakhstan in Astana, data analysts Gracenote gave the Scots a favourable – given the presence of Belgium and Russia – 43% chance of getting out of their group.
That tallies with the bookmakers who have the national team as third favourites at around 33/1. It means the games at home to the Scot’s two main rivals are going to be huge. A win in either match could tip their chances for qualification closer to the same 50/50 chance players of Football Studio at Lucky casino and sportsbook get when playing the popular card game but it’ll require a turnaround in fortunes for a team who were sluggish and seemingly uninterested in Astana.
The bonus for Scotland is that, because they won their Nations League group, they’re guaranteed a play-off place. It may be the team’s most likely route to the competition finals which will take place across 12 nations. While it might have only been San Marino in which the Scots recorded their first win in qualifying, the three points were an important boost.
Whoever replaces McLeish in the manager’s hot seat will hope to get more out of the players as the group enters its next round of matches. Goals have been coming from the wide men in recent months through James Forest and Ryan Fraser and the manager will hope they can continue to contribute with a little help from his central strikers.
A nucleus of Celtic talent must also be a bonus, given the familiarity of the players. Scott Bain has enjoyed a renaissance in the last 12 months and could prove a good addition to the national side. Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers and then Neil Lennon had preferred Oliver Burke, on loan from West Brom, as their striking option and the national team will hope to utilise the pacey physicality of the man and his ability to cause opposing defenders a headache. He’s had chances previously for the national side and failed, but he’s improved since then and will hope to impress.
And despite having to face-off against the world’s top team Belgium (according to FIFA rankings), former manager McLeish says the team are ready to “go all out”. In an interview with the BBC, he said the Nations League success gave the Scots confidence as well as a “second bite at the cherry” if qualification through Group I fails.
The 45th ranked team in the world – who will have reverse fixtures against Kazakhstan and San Marino as well as home and away games against Cyprus, each of whom are ranked outside the world’s top 100 – will hope to gain further confidence from those games to take into matches with Group I’s favoured nations.
Indeed, the Scot’s quick start against San Marino, which saw Kenny Mclean stoop low to put Ryan Fraser’s cross into the back of the net after just four minutes – tells whoever gets the manager’s job there’s quality there. The challenge now is to find a formula to sustain it for 90 minutes.