Ads 468x60px

1 Aug 2011

Can Scotland make the 2014 World Cup?

The draw for the qualifying stage of the Brazil 2014 World Cup took place on Saturday evening in Rio de Janeiro, the city set to host the final in just under 3 years' time.

Scotland have not made a World Cup, or any major tournament, since the 1998 World Cup. 13 long years of disappointment. There was once a time where our national side made it to 5 straight World Cups, a record number, from 1970-90 we were regulars.

It would boost our chances of ending that run if Scotland got a favourable draw. We have played our best football against some of the top teams in the world and just missed out. In qualifying for Euro 2008 we came up against both 2006 World Cup finalists, in 2010 WC qualifying we came up against eventual-runners up Holland and in Euro 2012 qualifying we have drawn the best side in the world, and current World Champions, the Spanish. So the Tartan Army had a right to be nervous, as we could have drawn both one top-tier team and the French, who have fallen into the second pot of teams.

Thankfully, it didn't turn out so badly. Croatia from the top pot, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia and Wales make up the rest.

A winnable group? If Craig Levein can get the team playing as good as they did in the 2008-qualifying group, then I don't see why not. Scotland could certainly claim second place and a subsequent Playoff berth as a reasonable target.

Croatia: World Ranking: 9
Previous result vs Scotland: 1-1, March 2008.
The Croatians are a decent outfit, managed by fan favourite Slaven Bilic. They can count Tottenham's Luka Modric, Ivica Olic of Bayern Munich, Shaktar Donetsk and ex-Arsenal man Eduardo and a familiar face to Scottish fans - Rangers' Nikica Jelavic.
Target Results: A hard-fought draw at Hampden is a possibility, but I would expect the Croats to be too strong in Zagreb.

Serbia: World Ranking: 27
Previous result vs Scotland: These two teams have not meant since Serbia became independent in 1993.
The Serbs are in disarray at the minute. Although they qualified for both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, they were recently beaten 3-1, at home, by Estonia (Rank 79th). That said, they can boast Manchester City's Aleksander Kolarov, Premier League champion Nemanja Vidic, Nikica Zigic from Birmingham and their main danger man, Inter Milan's Dejan Stankovic, a man who is a leader, a goal scorer and a competent defender.
Target Results: On their day, Scotland could win at Hampden and possibly snatch a valuable point away from home. It all depends on the Serbian team that shows up.

Belgium: World Ranking: 37
Previous result vs Scotland: The pair were last together in the 2002 World Cup qualifying group. A 2-2 draw at Hampden, followed by a 2-0 defeat in Brussels put paid to our chances of progressing to a second-successive World Cup.
Belgium are in a state of redevelopment. They do however field a clutch of dangerous players. Everton's Marouanne Felaini, Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, and Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Target Results: A win at home and looking for another away draw would be the ideal return for Levein's men.

Macedonia: World Ranking: 96
Previous result vs Scotland: Scotland won 2-0 at Hampden during the 2010 World Cup campaign after a 1-0 away defeat in the searing summer heat of Skopje.
Macedonia are a team who are better than their current world ranking suggests. They always take their game to their opponents and have given some of Europe's big boys a real test. Their main and only true threat is Lazio's Goran Pandev.
Target Results: A win at home is an absolute must, and a win away should be targeted, though a draw cannot be deemed a failure.

Wales: World Ranking: 112
Previous result vs Scotland: Scotland beat the Welsh 3-1 in the recent Nations Cup, although a 3-0 hiding in Cardiff marked the end of George Burley's tenure as Scotland coach.
The Welsh have slipped into the final pot of qualifying, albeit a mere 0.07 ranking points behind the Faroe Islands. The Welsh have Craig Bellamy and of course Premier League Player of the Year Gareth Bale. An intense atmosphere will surround this 'home-nations' tie.
Target Results: Scotland cannot afford to drop any points at home or away to the Welsh. The second-placed team in each group has it's results against the bottom team scrapped at the end of qualifying to determine which of the 9 runners-up misses out on the 8-team playoff. This is why Scotland need 6 points from the Welsh. This may be easier said than done, especially in the trip to the Millennium Stadium which will undoubtedly be packed to the rafters.

Group prediction:
Croatia should win the group if the rankings are to be believed, but second place is up for grabs between 3 or possibly even 4 teams. Belgium and Serbia are a couple of steps ahead of Scotland, but the bigger teams have disregarded us before and we ended beating the French in Paris and being robbed of at least a draw with the then-World Champion Italians. Macedonia have an outside chance depending on their overall squad strength given that the first qualifying game is over a year away.


Post a Comment