Saturday, October 11, 2014

Scotland: Georgia on my mind

The new world champions given a fright at home. Six games undefeated before that.

A new tournament format making qualification for a major championship a less daunting proposition.

Scotland are being unusually generous in offering us reasons to be cheerful at the moment.

Scotland at the Scottish Football Blog
Today offers a chance to add some substance to the idea that Gordon Strachan might just be on the verge of achieving something with this Scotland squad.

Georgia arrive at Ibrox outside the world's top 100 (an altogether unreliable gauge but being outside the top hundred is never a positive). In the last two years Liechtenstein and Saudi Arabia, a goalless draw with France arguably providing the brightest moment of a run that includes 10 defeats in 15 games.

Strachan has mentioned this week that being the better team, having the better players, being meticulously prepared can all be meaningless if you just end up having 'one of those days.'

We've all seen it happen.

It can't be allowed to happen today though. While we were taking plaudits and no points in Germany, Poland and the Republic of Ireland were taking three points against Gibraltar and Georgia.

Just the opening skirmishes but it gave them a start on us. Ireland will likely build on that against Gibraltar this evening. If we can beat Georgia and Germany - as expected - beat Poland we'll be in fine fettle going into the game against the Poles on Tuesday night.

A win today would also mean any faint hopes Georgia have of challenging for second or third, in theory allowing us to concentrate on getting ahead of Poland and Ireland.

Won't be easy. Never is. And Georgia have bitten us on the bum when we've had high hopes before.

Charlie Mulgrew is suspended for being stupid but Strachan has a settled squad to choose from.

There are weaknesses, most notably at the centre of defence. Long gone are the days when redoubtable Scottish centre backs seemed everywhere and Craig Brown could jealously stuff them into each squad.

Elsewhere however there are, if not an embarrassment of riches, certainly a number of options. Will Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith start together? I'd suspect not but it's another nice option to call on.

David Marshall looks set to start ahead of Craig Gordon. I'd take either in my team, the loss to injury of Allan McGregor just highlighting how well served we are for goalkeepers.

Scott Brown will return in midfield with today offering exactly the sort of game that he should relish, a chance to show his seniority in this squad and push the team on.

The signals from Strachan this week have suggested quiet confidence but no complacency.

Sounds good to me.

It might be exactly the right mix to beat Georgia. And after that? It's game on in Group D.