When the Nations League was born it’s fair to say that it received a lukewarm reception. Uefa claimed that it would be intense and closely fought and it was to their delight that the competition was a success with surprises and most groups only being decided on the final matchday.
For a success starved nation, watching James Forrest scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 victory against Israel is a recent high point. The victory confirmed a play-off spot for Euro 2020 before we were drawn against Belgium, Russia, Cyprus, Kazakhstan and San Marino in Group I. A group where a top two finish and automatic qualification would seem beyond us before a ball is kicked.
Scotland Manager Is Under Pressure
Scotland last qualified for this tournament in 1992, when Fansbet ambassador, Brian McClair scored for Scotland in a consolation victory against the CIS. The comfort of a play-off spot means that this qualification campaign will be consumed with less tension but with no less ambition. Alex McLeish has failed to ignite and impress the nation, only just over 21,000 turned up to watch the victory against Israel, and a poor start to the qualification campaign could see him lucky to survive.
He was never a popular choice. We flirted with Michael O’Neill and ended up with a manager out of work having failed in every management appointment since he left Birmingham in 2011 where his style of play was widely criticized.
Though, Scotland won their Nations League group with an impressive three wins and one loss, the train of thought was that it was achieved more by luck than tactical greatness. Injuries forced certain team selections not choice.
Even though we have a Play Off spot poor performances will see McLeish under pressure. The SFA have seemed to have learned from previous away games after the team passed through six time zones on Sunday night into Monday morning.
The SFA Planning Shambles
Our previous two away games have seen the team fly on a jet chartered from a budget Dutch airline and the squad arrived in Albania and Israel the night before the game. They trained in Tel Aviv at 10:30pm and the performance in a 2-1 defeat reflected the shambles of the planning.
A few seasons back the governing bodies’ penny pinching saw the players stranded all night in Tbilisi International Airport after their chartered plane was delayed. The SFA refused to pay the cost of the plane remaining grounded in Georgia and this caused the embarrassment of players and fans mingling in the queue at the airports Burger King.
The SFA Head of High Performance, Graeme Jones, has looked at Celtic, Aberdeen and Glasgow City’s recent trips to Kazakhstan and the players are being kept to British time to stop jet lag being a factor.
McLeish Relying Heavily On Celtic
McLeish will lean heavily on the Celtic players in the squad who have played on the astro at the Astana Arena before. Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and James Forrest will play pivotal roles and Scotland will look to Olly Burke to continue his improvement in form and supply an attacking threat against a well drilled technical Kazak side.
The squad, as usual, is light on attacking options. Johnny Russell, Marc McNulty and Oli McBurnie will hope for game time but it’s hardly a deep pool of talent where you look and see answers.
Kazakhstan v Scotland Predictions
Our last away game saw us score four goals and the improving Kazak’s are coming back off a second place finish in their Nations League campaign. This will be a tight game and if we win I think it will only be by a single goal. The second part of this double header against San Marino should be easier and it’s there where a three or four goal margin of victory should be looked for.
The Tartan Army, will be finishing work early or sneaking glances on mobiles as the game kicks off and it all seems very low key. The buzz of a new qualifying campaign isn’t there and two unglamorous ties to kick off plus the McLeish effect have added to that. That may change once it all kicks off and there will be disappointment if after this weekend we haven’t got six points.
Fansbet are committed to giving 50 per cent of their net profits back to fans. To find out more about how they do it, click here!
And is that is not enough check out our Fan Boosts here. The best odds and an unrivalled range of special bets!
Fansbet, about Fans, by fans, for fans.
*odds subject to change.