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Scotland Move Closer To World Cup

Steve Clarke’s Scotland men’s squad quickly set aside any fears over their not qualifying for a World Cup play-off place in Moldova on Friday by turning back the hosts 2-0.

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The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy

In truth, after a nervy start led to a phenomenal save from Hearts ’keeper Craig Gordon (remember those, Celtic supporters?), the Scots took control, formally settling the matter with a 38th-minute strike from, of all people, Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson.

Yes, it took a 65th-minute second from Southampton striker Che Adams, and another Gordon stop (this time, on a penalty) in the 82nd to put the match to bed, but the final score ultimately flattered Moldova, who sit bottom of Group F and are ranked 181st in the latest FIFA rankings.

With the victory, the Scots no longer need to worry about Israel, who sit seven points back with two matches to play. Monday’s match against Denmark at Hampden is not a dead rubber for the Scots, though, as they likely will need a point from the contest to host a play-off semi-final.

Hence, Clarke and his side were not in much of a celebratory mood after dispatching the Moldovans. Indeed, the Tartan Army should not book their tickets for Qatar just yet.


“It was a good performance, aggressive going forward and trying to create chances,” Clarke told Sky Sports after Friday’s match. “A lot of shots but only two goals. The penalty could have made it nervy but when you need him, [Gordon] is always there. All focus is Denmark now.”

Still, contrasting the performance of the Scots with those of Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which is relevant, based on size and geography) highlights what Clarke and his team have accomplished already.

Under former Dunfermline Athletic manager Stephen Kenny, Ireland have started playing some attractive football, but still will finish a distant fourth in Group A. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, clearly miss Michael O’Neill, and they will be missing Qatar as well.

So, though nothing is certain, the Scots have moved a step closer to something that hasn’t been achieved since 1998. Should that play-off be in Glasgow, it promises to be a hell of a night.

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