Optimism continues to flourish around the Scotland national team after qualifying for their first major tournament in twenty-two years at the delayed Euros 2020, and having received a favourable World Cup qualifying draw for Qatar 2022.
Manager Clarke cautious
Supporters and sports journalists were licking their lips at a qualifying group whose highest ranked team is 12th (Denmark) and which avoided all the big European hitters including Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Holland.
What used to be the pessimistic, but now after recent success, the wise and unquestionable Steve Clarke says fans have a right to be confident about the group, but the team must remain focused.
Clarke told BBC Radio Scotland after the group was announced: “The draw is decent but everyone will be looking round thinking it’s a decent group.
“The supporters are allowed to get carried away and optimistic, but inside the camp we’ll not get carried away.”
Against the top sides along with Scotland – Denmark, Austria and Israel – Clarke warned they will not be easy to beat.
Clarke said of his opponents: “We know Denmark, Austria and Israel are going to give us really tough times.”
And even for the games against the Faroes and Moldovo – who Scotland have never lost against and who are ranked over 50 and 120 places below Scotland in the Fifa rankings – wise old master Clarke refused to get over excited:
“We know we’re pretty good getting tripped up in games we should win.”
Fan reaction on social media
Most fans were delighted with the draw saying Scotland couldn’t have got a better outcome.
If we can maximise points with the 3 teams below I believe we can take points from Denmark and Austria. How many is the big question.
Scotland should have some confidence. It could be a lot worse, but cannot underestimate the ‘weaker’ teams.
So World Cup and Euros it is then!
Best group we have been in for years.
Happy with the first two but probably the worst we could have drawn from the bottom three pots. Certainly has a chance to be entertaining.
It’s away games in Moldova and the so called ‘average teams’ that we treat far too lightly. Absolutely have to find cutting edge.
Unbelievably good draw (for once). Strong opposition, but in with a chance if we keep the best of the current squad and add Gilmour.
Can’t complain at that at all! In with a shout!
Right so where are we bottling it this time?
Fans on having played Israel five times in two years
“We will all learn to speak Hebrew soon I think.”Manager Steve Clarke on another meeting with Israel
Are Israel decent? Bit of an unknown fixture for us.
Be good to play Israel for a change.
No played Israel in years, will be interesting.
Presumably we just play Israel in every tournament from now on.
To be fair, I think Israel are just as sick with playing against us again.
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Fifa ranking: 12th
The last time Scotland played Denmark in a competitive match was in the 86 World Cup. Since then there has been six friendlies between the two nations, the last being a one-nil win for the Scots in May 2016.
Key player: Christian Eriksen (MF, Inter Milan)
Followers of UK football should be well aware of Eriksen’s exploits with Tottenham both in the Premier League and reaching the 2019 Champions League final against Liverpool. Since then the Dane’s career has taken a slide, struggling to break into Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan team having desired a ‘new challenge’ after his time with Spurs.
Fifa ranking: 23rd
The Scots haven’t done too bad against Austria in recent times having only lost one in five. The last time they met competitively was in qualifying for the last World Cup Scotland entered in 1998. In both those games Scotland came away with a win and a draw.
Key player: David Alaba (DF, Bayern)
An integral part of the all conquering Bayern Munich team that took home the treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League in the 2019/20 campaign. Alaba is an athletic defender who eats up ground like kids eat up candy. You’d think all was well in the world of the serial winner although contract disputes with his club mean Alaba could be on the move to another top European team next summer.
Fifa ranking: 87
Scotland have played Israel five times in the last two years, four times in the Nations League and once in European qualification. In that time Scotland have won once, drawn two and lost two, the most recent being a one-nil loss in the penultimate game of the last Nations League.
Key player: Eran Zahavi (FW, PSV)
Scotland fans have seen plenty of Zahavi in the last two years. The PSV forward scored in the 3-2 win at Hampden in 2018 and the one-all draw in September. Did you know: Zahavi has scored three hat-tricks for his national side since March 2019 including against fellow group rivals Austria.
Fifa ranking: 107
The Faroe Islands as a football nation represented on the international scene only came into being in 1988. In that time the Faroes have met Scotland nine times, drawing two and losing seven.
Key player: Jóan Símun Edmundsson.
On the cusp of becoming a Faroese footballing legend. Sixth in the all-time appearance list (most of active players) and fourth in the all-time goalscorers with seven, three behind record goalscorer Rógvi Jacobsen. Did you know: Edmundsson joined Newcastle Utd in 2010 after a successful trial against Hibernian. He left the Magpies in 2012 and now plays in Bundesliga for newly promoted side Arminia Bielefeld.
Fifa ranking: 177
Scotland have never lost to Moldova having only played them twice during a failed World Cup qualification campaign for Germany 2006 – one win, one draw.
Key player: Alexandru Epureanu
Mr Molodova with the most caps in his country’s history and three away from making it 100 international appearances. Epureanu is a tough tackling centre-half who has Champions League pedigree having played in this season’s competition for İstanbul Başakşehir – the team that recently walked off with PSG after an official allegedly used racist comments a quarter of the way into the match.