The Glorious Failures

It’s crunch time for Scotland as Craig Levein’s men prepare for a nerve-jangling 180 minutes against Liechtenstein and Spain away from home.  The final matches of the EURO 2012 qualifiers see Scotland needing to get three points more from their games than what the Czech Republic get from their two games, Spain at home and Lithuania away.

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The Scots sit third in Group I on eight points, two points behind rivals in the group Czech Republic and ten behind World and European champions Spain, who have of course already qualified as group winners. The Czechs host Spain tomorrow night, in a game the Scots really need Spain to win otherwise it’s probably all over.  A day later Scotland travel to minnows Liechtenstein hoping it won’t be such a tight affair as the first time the sides met, where after going behind, Levein’s players won 2-1 thanks to an injury-time winner.

A win is 100% required in this game at the Rheinpark Stadion as the next and final opponents for Scotland are Spain away in Alicante.  On the same night, Czech Republic travel north to Lithuania.  The perfect scenario for all us bonnie Scots is for the Czechs to lose their two games and us to win against Liechtenstein and inevitably lose against the best team in the world, Spain.  That would send us into the play-offs to face one of the other runners-up in the eight groups, knowing two games would stand in our way of getting to our first finals competition since the 1998 World Cup in France.

In the last double-header at the start of September, they had two home games at Hampden Park against the Czechs and Lithuania, knowing six points from the games would put them in pole position to qualify to the play-offs of the competition, to be hosted in Poland and Ukraine.  After a few refereeing howlers however, Scotland drew 2-2 with the Czechs in the first game but eventually won the Lithuania tie 1-0.

Break-down

Let’s break this down.  First up, Czech Republic vs Spain.  The obvious negatives for Scotland are that they are at home and need the points against a Spain side who no longer need any other points to qualify.  However, a weakened Spain side would be a very difficult task for the Republic to defeat.  And the squad announced by del Bosque is nothing near a weakened side, the only big-name casualties being Andres Iniesta, Francesc Fabregas and Alvaro Negredo.  To couple that Michal Bilak’s squad has had a few setbacks, namely striker Milan Baros’ withdrawal and the possibility of Tomas Rosicky missing out after his girlfriend had a miscarriage.  So there is hope that Spain can take all three points leaving Scotland with the chance of leapfrogging them into 2nd place with a win in Liechtenstein.

Now to Scotland’s squad.  Manager Craig Levein has said he will not risk Kenny Miller agravating his injury for the game on Saturday, in hope he will be fit enough to lead the line in Alicante on Tuesday. Former Rangers, Celtic and Bursaspor striker Miller is an important part of Levein’s set-up, having scored one and set up the other goal in last month’s 2-2 home draw with Czech Republic.  Captain Darren Fletcher will also be missing on Saturday but may feature against Spain as he battles tonsillitis.  Mario Frick, the Liechtenstein forward who stunned everyone with his opener in the 2-1 game, is battling to be fit for the game.  Who’d have ever thought that we’d be praying the star player of Liechtenstein was going to miss a game against Scotland?  Either way, this is a game Scotland should win and win with ease.  They are the only team who have ever lost to fellow minnows San Marino, and if we can’t get three points here then we do not deserve a place in the play-offs.

Then there is the last set of fixtures.  Here is when it gets really bad for our hearts.  Both games will kick-off at the same time and hopefully we will not need anything from the Spain game.  That would require our old chums Lithuania beating the Czechs at home, which at first sounds a bit unlikely but they managed to beat them away from home earlier in the campaign, so all we can do is hope.  If anything other than a Lithuania win happens, Scotland will need a point or all three in Alicante.  Not even the likes of England, Holland, Argentina or Brazil would be confident of beating Spain, never mind Scotland AND away from home.  But it may come down to that and what a night it would be if we managed to get a result there.

Realistic Scenarios

Czech Republic lose to Spain and Lithuania, Scotland win in Liechtenstein and lose in Spain – Scotland qualify by one point.

Czech Republic lose to Spain but draw with Lithuania, Scotland win in Liechtenstein and lose in Spain – Czech Republic qualify with better head-to-head

In summary, if the Czechs take anything from their games then Scotland are out.  That is unless we manage a historic draw/win against the Spanish in Alicante. If Scotland do not win on Saturday it all over realistically, and if the Czechs win or draw on Saturday it is all over realistically.

Scotland and Scottish teams have always been glorious failures in sporting competition, especially football.  Prime examples of this recently are qualifying for the EURO 2008 finals, we defeated France home and away yet narrowly missed out on qualification to France and Italy.  And Rangers reached the UEFA Cup Final in the same year, but were defeated by Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 in Manchester after a mammoth run.

Maybe this time, just this time, Scotland will not be glorious failures.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Or to be more precise, Scotland will lose a goal in the last 5 minutes against Spain so qualification is stripped away. Could happen but most likely we will get destroyed.

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