The ‘Road to Rio’ gets underway with a vengeance on Saturday with what I would already class as the first of two must-win games for Scotland.
Our constant failure to qualify for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France has left us in a vicious circle of lower seedings and increasingly tougher qualifying groups.
This won’t change until we qualify once again and restore the glory days of regular qualification and ‘five in a row’. You have to have that hope or else what’s the point?
A near whole generation of the Tartan Army has missed out of the joys of watching their country at a major tournament.
I’ll state now that I think Craig Levein is the wrong man for the manager’s job and should have been punted before this campaign got underway. Unfortunately, we all need to get behind him for now.
I’ve probably have more hope than expectation with the current Scotland squad due to the toughness of the group. Two home wins to kick off the campaign would give us some momentum to rise up and be a respected footballing nation again.
What gives me the most hope is that we are finally starting to see some of our younger talent come to the fore and play at the top level. Nineteen members of the squad are playing in the top two divisions in England, with 11 of them in the Premiership.
Only two players are currently plying their trade abroad, and one of them, current captain Kenny Miller, has been having a bit of a rough start over in MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps. Miller has mustered only one shot on target in his first few games there, but he did at least bury that chance!
We had a chat with Kenny about the upcoming games, the hopes of reaching Brazil and the younger talent coming through.
Is Saturday a must win?
“They’re home games. If we’re going to be successful in any campaign, whether it be World Cup or Euros, you’ve got to try and put your home games to bed and get three points and as many as you can. Hopefully all of them, but if not, as many as we can.
We’re starting with the two homes games and I think it is vitally important that we pick up points.
It’s a tough group and every team will pretty much fancy their chances in making the World Cup, so it’s important that we do get the right results at home.”
Third seeded Belgium are resurgent and much hyped right now, with many people tipping them to win the group, helped by on-form Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini and the even more on-form Eden Hazard from Chelsea.
Scotland travel to Belgium for their fourth game of the group in October, but Miller doesn’t want to look too far ahead:
“We’ll cross them when we come to them.
At the moment we have Serbia and Macedonia coming up first, then Belgium next month.
They’re a fantastic team . They’ve got a lot of high profile players, which we’ve seen one in particular really light up the Premiership in his first three games this season.
When that game comes around, we’ll make sure that the manager has a set up and a way that hopefully we’ll get the right result.”
Scotland’s morale boosting friendly win last month was pleasing, particularly as they played really well in spells to dispatch Australia 3-1 in Edinburgh. It gives us hope that when we choose to play attacking football, we can do some damage. We just need to play that way more often and lose all the defensive nonsense that Levein seems to adore.
Miller decided not to travel for that game as he was still trying to settle into his new surroundings in Vancouver, and living out of a hotel meant that he wasn’t able to watch the game live, but he was getting regular updates on his phone.
One pleasing aspect from that game was an international goal for the up and coming, and highly rated, Jordan Rhodes, who Miller describes as “a goalscoring machine”. With so many players out, and changes to the squad, was that a big win for us?
“Well it was. Obviously off the back of the US game, which was a poor performance and a poor result and unlike the team to be honest with you. We’ve been moving in the right direction.
The Australia game gave us a chance to put that right and the lads who were there by all accounts played very, very well and the result suggests that. A 3-1 victory against Australia is no mean feat.
The lads did very well there and hopefully put that USA result behind us.”
Let’s hope so.
We’ll see just how far on Saturday against Serbia.