If a year ago you told a card-carrying member of the Tartan Army that Scotland would sit second in the Group F table for 2022 World Cup qualifying with two matches to play, they’d have undoubtedly taken it.
The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy
If you had told them that one of those two matches would be against minnows Moldova and that the other would be a home tilt against a Denmark side with nothing to play for (given that they are comfortably in first place in the group), they’d have been euphoric.
But when it comes to the Scots and qualifying for major tournaments, things are never easy. Hence, the 22-year drought between Euro 2020 and the 1998 World Cup. And, true to form, Steve Clarke’s side head into that Friday fixture in Moldova with plenty of question marks.
Who will replace Ryan Christie and Lyndon Dykes in the attack, with both suspended due to yellow card accumulation?
Can Jack Hendry continue his surprising run of form—after famously flaming out at Celtic—and account for the absence of Grant Hanley? Hanley, the Norwich City defender, will be out due to a groin injury.
And is Kieran Tierney (ankle) fit to play? Are Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour fit at all after featuring very little for their club sides this autumn? Could Stephen O’Donnell slot in for the former in Moldova?
To be fair, the Moldovans have yet to win in Group F, and they bring a goal differential of -20 into the match at Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau. However, even a draw could derail the Scots’ hopes for qualification, what with Israel just four points back. The Israelis could easily book six points from matches against disappointing Austria and the struggling Faroe Islands during this international break.
How Clarke addresses these personnel matters will determine whether the Tartan Army will be breathing a sigh of relief in Moldova on Friday. Until the final whistle sounds, though, there will likely be much handwringing.
Such is life, given the recent history of the Scots.