Scotland Still Has What it Takes to Reach World Cup

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It’s been an uphill battle for Scotland as they’ve fought to maintain their place in the upcoming World Cup. The 2018 World Cup in Russia will mark 20 years since the last time the Scots were in the finals on this most prestigious event.

Many have been hoping that this could be the year that Scotland finally makes it back to the World Cup tournament, and it could very well be its best opportunity in some time. Despite some recent setbacks, there’s still a very real chance that Scotland could at least advance to the 2nd round playoff for group runners-up. They’ll just need everything to fall into place for it to happen.

The recent draw against England was a bitter pill to swallow for Scottish supporters, but it’s no reason to count them out just yet. After finding itself down late in the match thanks to a goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamblerlain in the 70th minute, Scotland somehow found itself on the verge of a miracle.

Late game heroics from Leigh Griffiths saw the Scots notch two goals of their own in the final minutes, putting Scotland up 2-1 as the game headed into stoppage time. Sadly, Scotland was then unable to withstand England’s vicious attack as Harry Kane put one away to tie the game in its dying embers.

History was on England’s side going into the games. The three lions had won seven of their last eight meetings and soundly defeated the Scots 3-0 in November of 2016. England  has been looking unstoppable in group play and appear as though they’ll continue to sit atop Group F. The English currently have 14 points and have yet to lose a match in qualifying play. In a way, Scotland should be rooting for England’s form to continue, as it will need both Slovakia and Slovenia to drop points during their upcoming matches.

Still, a victory would have helped Scotland put itself in a good position in the group. It also would have been Scotland’s first victory over England at Glasgow’s Hampden Park since 1985. Adding to the sting, Slovakia and Slovenia both recorded wins of their own to put them ahead of Scotland in the table. Still, there are four matches left and plenty of opportunities for Scotland to pick up the points it needs. The team is only four points off of second place, and it’s conceivable that Scotland could advance to the second round provided maximum points in the next two matches.

The next two qualifying matches will be against Lithuania and Malta, respectively. These are both teams that Scotland should be able to defeat with ease, and once again put itself in a strong position. The biggest test will come in the final two group qualifiers. Scotland is set to play Slovakia on October 5 and Slovenia on October 8. Provided both of those teams lose their matches with England, and Scotland wins its first two matches against Lithuania and Malta, the Scots could still be in second by the time the dust settles.

The Slovakia match will be held at Hampden Park and should bring the Scottish supporters out in droves as they cheer on the team’s best chance to reach the world stage in years. The team itself has said it thinks it can win all four games and the squad certainly has the talent to get the job done.

No one would argue that Scotland doesn’t deserve to make the tournament. The larger question will be whether the team can live up to its own potential when it matters most. We’ll find out in autumn when qualifying play resumes and it will certainly be some heart-stopping football for Scottish supporters.

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