Blogs & Opinion


Hampden hope

Scotland need home success to qualify for World Cup, says Andy

Falkirk - Andy Walker Posted 3rd September 2012 view comments

As I mingled with the thousands of people who joined me competing in Glasgow's Half-Marathon yesterday, every football fan I spoke to only had one thing on their mind.

How are Scotland going to fare in their quest to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?

Craig Levein's men begin their qualifying campaign on Saturday with a Hampden clash against Serbia and follow it up with another home game on Tuesday against Macedonia.

Levein: selection decisions will be questioned if Scotland fail to score

Levein: selection decisions will be questioned if Scotland fail to score

In what should be a tight group, it's absolutely essential Scotland make use of the fabulous backing from a demanding Tartan Army and look to secure maximum points from the opening two fixtures.

With games against Wales, Belgium and Croatia to follow, home form will go a long way to determine whether Scotland can get to their first major finals since France 1998.

Scotland look like a team that can be solid at the back and creative going forward.

Andy Walker
Quotes of the week

LIVE ON SKY SPORTS
World Cup Qualifier
Scotland v Serbia

2.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 2 HD
Watch on the move with Sky Go
How to remote record

But they have every right to be confident.

The Scotland squad is full of players with plenty of Barclays Premier League experience, not to mention the cut and thrust of the Champions League.

Playing regularly at that level, Gary Caldwell, Sean Maloney, Charlie Adam, Steven Naismith and James Morrison can be their influential players, while Kenny Miller now has new Blackburn signing Jordan Rhodes pushing him for a starting place. Scotland look like a team that can be solid at the back and creative going forward.

Instinct

The one disappointing aspect affecting the hope of getting to Brazil 2014 is the startling omission of Steven Fletcher, Sunderland's new £14million man.

When he put pen to paper for Martin O'Neill, he became the most expensive Scottish player in history but his relationship with Craig Levein broke down long ago.

Fletcher was undoubtedly immature in texting an SFA official to say he didn't want to play for Scotland under Levein but it seems to me there's been no real effort to put that daft episode to one side for the benefit of the national team.

I don't believe for a second that Steven Fletcher doesn't really care about whether or not he could play on the greatest stage of all for your country.

One look at his debut goals in last weekend's 2-2 draw for the Black Cats at Swansea shows how much we could do with a player of that talent in front of goal. He is the most mobile front man with a lovely technique and crucially, he has an instinct for being in the right place at the right time.

Similarly, Celtic's Kris Commons has also been surprisingly left out of the squad.

In my view, Commons has started the season in top form, scoring a magnificent volley in the Champions League qualifier against Helsingborgs and will have a spring in his step at the prospect of competing in the Celtic's Champions League group stage with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow. I think he deserves to be in the squad.

Serbia test

With Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic playing in the same defensive unit as Manchester City's Aleksander Kolorov, Serbia will be tough to break down.

If Scotland can be creative and show some imagination in the last third, they can start with a win and make the Scotland fans forget about Fletcher and Commons but, believe me, if Scotland start the campaign with a couple of blanks, the clamour for answers to the Fletcher problem and the omission of Commons will intensify.

On Thursday night, I'm looking forward to co-commentating on Scotland's U-21 clash with Luxembourg at the home of St Mirren, live on Sky.

Two wins from their final two games against Luxembourg and Austria four days later will give them a chance of progressing to the play-offs. Again, Billy Stark has plenty of creative talent in the hope of securing all six points.

Dundee Utd's Johnny Russell and Celtic's Tony Watt are more than capable in front of goal but I'm sure they'd be the first to applaud the type of service given to them by Bolton's Gregg Wylde and West Brom's Scott Allan.

back to top

Other Football Experts:

Latest Posts in Football:

Ed Chamberlin

Rough ride

Ed Chamberlin recalls Liverpool's emotional weekend but says Norwich may give them a test....

Andy Walker

Second success

Andy Walker applauds Stuart McCall's work at Motherwell, as his re-built side challenges for second....

Latest News RSS feeds

Rodgers: Let's win in style

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has called on his side to try and win the Premier League title "in the right way".

Martinez disappointed by loss

Roberto Martinez conceded his Everton side had not been at their best after going down 3-2 at home to Crystal Palace.

Villa tracking Deeney

Sky Sports understands Aston Villa have made Watford hit-man Troy Deeney one of their top summer transfer targets.

Poyet pleased to defy critics

Gus Poyet has vowed to continue fighting for safety after Sunderland's 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Wednesday.

Davies flattered with links

Swansea City star Ben Davies admits he is flattered at being linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid.

Features

No engineer fix

No engineer fix

Matt Stanger reflects on a night that saw the title slip further out of Manchester City's grasp.

Real Madrid: Los Blancos can push forward after Copa del Rey victory at the Mestalla

Real Madrid: Los Blancos can push forward after Copa del Rey victory at the Mestalla

Gerry Armstrong says Real Madrid can kick on after their Copa del Rey triumph and compete for the Treble.

Pulis' perfect plan

Pulis' perfect plan

Daniel Storey is unstinting in his praise for Tony Pulis after watching Crystal Palace beat Everton.