It’s hard to fathom how Euro 2020 was the first major tournament in over 20 years Scotland has participated in, having not been at a World Cup since the turn of the millennium. While Steve Clarke’s side went out rather underwhelmingly in what was a tough group, they can use that competitive experience to try and build a run that can potentially help them book a seat on the plane for Qatar next winter.
The qualifying stages are just getting into full swing and destiny looks to be in the hands of the Tartan Army for the first time in what seems like an eternity — being able to win games at a more leisurely pace than flock together results last minute to salvage the pride of their nation. Scotland started brightly with victory against Austria, especially in a tough away environment, but this is just the beginning of a long journey to Qatar, one the betting exchange has high hopes, for now, they arguably control their own destiny. With that being said, here is what we think Clarke and co will need to do to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Continuity is key in international football, especially for the smaller nations. The pool of players is not as diverse and versatile as their British neighbours further south and the Scots will need to utilise a consistent 11 in order to get out of the qualification group. They now have a spine of players that have been to a tournament which is only another year away, and bringing young players through sporadically not only provides them with invaluable minutes, but manages the games of the old guard, who will be important figures in the dressing room, but not necessarily playing week in and week out for their respective club sides.
In a group where Scotland are facing the likes of Moldova and the Faroe Islands it would be easy to get complaisant, and it is down to the leaders in the dressing room to keep a level head. Denmark are the most established team amongst the group, having reached the semi-final of Euro 2020, and have completed a clean sweep of wins thus far, but if captain Andy Robertson and senior players, like Kieran Tierney and John McGinn, can rally around the rest of the side, they could make a coup for top spot. The Scots play Israel next at home and a win there coupled with a clean sheet could help them put together a real surge of momentum as opposed to the poisoned chalice they have faced in qualifiers gone by.
Winning at home
Now fans are allowed back in Hampden Park, it is vital that Scotland make the most of home advantage — especially when the big boys come to town. Throughout the next few months fixture congestion will take place, with the likes of Robertson and Scott McTominay, who are stalwarts for their club sides, inevitably playing twice a week for the best part of nine months. When things aren’t going their way the Tartan Army have to act as a twelfth man and get behind the team at Hampden Park, cheering relentlessly to create a bear pit atmosphere which can render teams helpless on the right day, particularly when you consider that some teams won’t have any away support.