FIFA’s Dubious World Ranking: 47
World Cup appearances: 8
Last appearance: 1998
Best performance: Various 1st Round exits (9th overall in 1974 is theoretically the pick of the bunch)
Scotland v Serbia
Saturday 3pm – Hampden Park, Sky Sports 2
There’s an air of optimism around the Scotland camp at the moment, which is a welcome change from the Tartan Army being miserable and beating themselves up about life. They’ve been handed a tough group if they want to qualify for World Cup 2014, but equally they’ve avoided facing a dominant force who’s nailed on to hog one of the qualification spots all to themselves. It’ll be tough, but with just the right amount of stereotypical fighting spirit, they’re capable of getting in the frame for qualification.
The visit of Serbia to Glasgow is a great chance to start off the campaign with a win. The White Eagles have a couple of familiar names from the Premier League within their ranks, but the overall strength of the side is less convincing. They won just once in their last ten games and although you can write off some of those games as meaningless friendlies, they reality is they’ve beaten just Northern Ireland, Faroe Islands and Armenia in the last 18 months – a stretch of 17 games.
Scotland aren’t exactly wiping the floor with everyone, but they got a whiff of needing to book a ticket for Poland and Ukraine and that’s more than they’ve had for the last decade or so. The good news is they came within one victory over Czech Republic of taking Czech Republic’s place in the playoffs for Euro 2012. They finished third in a group where world champions, Spain strolled to automatic qualification. The slightly deflating news behind that stat is a grand total of one point of the 11 they amassed during that campaign came from teams other than the whipping boys of Lithuania and Liechtenstein.
An optimistic Scot is a dangerous thing and generally ends in disappointment. The last time they had high hopes of something Scottish claiming international success, Franz Ferdinand released ‘Tonight’. Still though, this game is winnable. Let the getting carried away with yourselves begin.
The ‘I don’t like giving predictions’ prediction: Scotland @ 8/11 on the Draw No Bet
Odds of needing to book a flight to Brazil: 11/2
Don’t go buying bucketloads of factor 80 – especially for pasty white skin – suncream just yet, but Scotland might head into the last couple of games with at least optimistic hopes of a playoff place.