Euro 2016 qualifying swings back into action this weekend, with Scotland looking to build on their impressive start to the campaign against Group D minnows Gibraltar on Sunday. Scotland currently lie 3rd in the qualifying table, a final position that would see them make at least the play-offs for France 2016, potentially direct entry. They are undefeated since their opening match away in Germany, registering two wins over Georgia and Republic of Ireland respectively, either side of a hard-earned draw in Warsaw against Poland.
Here, Scottish Fans takes a look at what come over the coming months, as Gordon Strachan attempts to guide the nation’s football team to its first international tournament in eighteen years…
Scotland suffer the worst possible start at Hampden against perennial whipping boys Gibraltar, falling behind to a 7th minute free-kick from the minnows’ Oxford-born and Bristol Rovers midfielder, Jake Gosling. Strachan rouses the troops however and a swift double from Steven Naismith gives Scotland the lead, before Scott Brown heads in a third before half-time. The win is secured in the second half as English Premier League duo Steven Fletcher and James McArthur confirm a 5-1 victory.
Elsewhere, Germany continue to lead the table with an away win in Georgia, while Ireland and Poland play out a dour 0-0 draw.
Georgia 1-3 Germany
Scotland 5-1 Gibraltar
Republic of Ireland 0-0 Poland
Scotland look to seal a double over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium but fall victim to a late Robbie Keane penalty after Celtic forward Anthony Stokes is tripped in the box by Russell Martin. Strachan’s team had again fallen behind early to a deflected Darron Gibson strike in the first half, but Steven Fletcher and his namesake Darren looked to have given the away side the three points before Keane’s late intervention.
Poland register a much needed win over Georgia in Warsaw, while Germany comfortably see off Gibraltar.
Poland 1-0 Georgia
Republic of Ireland 2-2 Scotland
Gibraltar 0-4 Germany
Another draw for Scotland away from home, this time against Georgia. An early goal from captain Darren Fletcher – his second in two games – not enough to collect three points as the hosts equalise midway through the second half from a headed goal by Vitesse defender, Guram Kashia.
The world champions Germany gain some revenge against Poland in Berlin following their defeat earlier in the campaign, while Ireland go goal crazy in Gibraltar, winning 11-0. Robbie Keane netting five in the second half having started the game on the bench. The match would end in controversy however, with Keane attempting to take a penalty awarded to Gibraltar, insisting he should be given the opportunity to complete an elusive double hat-trick. The LA Galaxy forward is eventually subdued by his teammates, Irish born-and-bred pair James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady. The home side miss the eventual-taken penalty.
Georgia 1-1 Scotland
Germany 2-0 Poland
Gibraltar 0-11 Republic of Ireland
Scotland go three games without a win, as they succumb to Germany at Hampden. a quickfire double from hipsters’ favourite Thomas Mueller eases the champs into cruise control, with a late Mark Reynolds header not enough to cause Jogi Loew and his swaggering mannschaft any bother.
Ireland make it 14 goals in two games with an easy win at home to Georgia, while Gibraltar put in by far their best performance of the campaign yet, a narrow and unfortunate 1-0 defeat in Poland. The qualifying debutantes celebrate as if they had won, but the party is cut short by a surprise appearance by Chelsea’s John Terry, fully-kitted, wearing his boots…..oh forget it, I can’t be having that joke.
Poland 1-0 Gibraltar
Republic of Ireland 3-0 Georgia
Scotland 1-2 Germany
Only two matches remain for the sides in Group D, with competition for places in next summers’ tournament hotting up. On a cold and wet Thursday night at Hampden, Scotland give themselves a great chance to join the party in France with a crucial 1-0 victory over rivals Poland, Gary Mackay-Steven scoring the winner, only a week after his hat-trick had seen Celtic defeat Real Madrid 3-0 in the Bernabeu in a crunch Champions League group stage encounter. The team are indebted to goalkeeper Craig Gordon, as he saves a 98th minute penalty from Robert Lewandowski to ensure the points stay in Glasgow.
Germany edge Ireland in Dublin to confirm their place as group winners, while despite taking the lead, Gibraltar are clawed back by Georgia and suffer their ninth defeat of the campaign.
Gibraltar 1-2 Georgia
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Germany
Scotland 1-0 Poland
So it comes to this, the last matchday in Group D and Scotland are in a relatively comfortable position to secure at least third place. A routine 3-0 win away at Gibraltar – goals from Jordan Rhodes, Stuart Armstrong and Charlie Mulgrew ensure the hosts end their inaugural campaign with a 100% lose record.
Ireland secure the second automatic qualification spot with a edgy 2-1 win in Warsaw, Aiden McGeady’s fantastic free-kick with 10 minutes remaining ensuring that the Irish will be in France in 2016. Georgia earn a modicum of respect with a hard-fought draw in Dortmund over the world champions.
Germany 1-1 Georgia
Gibraltar 0-3 Scotland
Poland 1-2 Republic of Ireland
Final Group D table
n.b. In groups of six, results against the bottom side are discounted (points, goals for and against). However, due to every team in Group D beating Gibraltar home and away, the above standings would be unaltered.
SCOTLAND QUALIFY…..for the play-offs
Euro 2016 play-off – Northern Ireland v Scotland
1st leg – Northern Ireland 0-0 Scotland
A terribly nervy affair at Windsor Park sees few chances and 17 yellow cards as the wet conditions are not conducive to slide tackles. Scott Brown receives two bookings by English referee Phil Dowd, but escaped a red after managing to outrun Dowd for 8 consecutive minutes around the pitch, before a nasty stitch stops the official and he decided not to bother
2nd leg – Scotland 2-1 Northern Ireland
Scotland qualify for Euro 2016 – their first international tournament since 1998 – and confirm their place as one of the greatest teams in world football with a 2-1 hammering of Northern Ireland at Hampden Park. Jordan Rhodes puts Scotland 1-0 up after 17 minutes, only for ex-Rangers midfielder Steven Davis to pull his team level on the stroke of half-time. The Hampden roar is at its’ loudest however with 7 minutes remaining, when Shaun Maloney curls a phenomenal free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards out – sending the country into delirium. Nicola Sturgeon declares the following day a national holiday and the rest is a haze…