Date: 24th July 2015
IT is a long established joke in Tartan Army ranks that Scotland always manage to receive a ‘group of death’ every time a World Cup or European Championship draw comes around.
So as the various representatives descend on St Petersburg’s Konstantinovsky Palace for the Russia 2018 World Cup draw, every Scottish football fan is readying their best laugh as Scotland almost inevitably draw the most difficult opponent from every potential pot.
The Tartan Army have had to combat the luck of their draws with humour, because the only other option is to give up before a ball is even kicked. Not an option in bonnie Scotland.
It’s now been 17 long years since Scotland ran out at a major tournament, when John Collins put one past Brazil in France to send the travelling fans into raptures.
What chance of a return to the biggest international tournament on Russian soil? As always, much will depend on the favourableness of the balls as they are plucked from the pot.
And if history it much to go by, then no matter how well Strachan continues to turn around the fortunes of the national side the outlook is still bleak.
This begins with our uncanny ability to be drawn with the current World Champions, the first team you’d hope to avoid in any prospective tournament draw. Beating the current number ones away or even at home is virtually impossible for a country our size, so effectively that’s six points down already.
In our current UEFA campaign, we were drawn with Germany fresh from beating Argentina to the world title in Brazil. In the UEFA Euro 2012 qualification, we were drawn against a Spain team at the height of their powers from lifting the World Cup in South Africa.
The 2008 Euro Campaign was a special effort even for Scotland. Thanks to the often infuriating FIFA ranking system, we managed to get World Cup winners Italy as well as the runners-up France. They even managed to sneak in quarter-finalist’s Ukraine. Getting drawn against 3 of the 8 best teams at the 2006 World Cup was impressive even for Scotland. The fact that we almost escaped this group was miraculous.
Even if we’ve managed to get into the play-offs from these groups, the draw has still managed to be unkind then. In the two play-offs faced Scotland managed to draw the old Auld Enemy England and Holland, teams who would have been expected to win their groups in any other campaign.
This is an ominous record going into tomorrow’s draw. Sitting in pot three, there is the very real chance that we could draw two major contenders again. Thanks to the FIFA ranking system teams like Wales and Romania have been seeded in pot one this time around, despite not qualifying for a major tournament for 57 years and 7 years respectively.
This has led to World Cup winners France and Italy, who have both lifted the World Cup in the last 17 years, to be seeded in pot two. This has led to the possibility of a third seeded team, i.e. Scotland, to face a combination of Germany and Spain alongside Italy or France, four of the last five World Cup champions.
No amount of Scottish optimism could force a laugh at such a draw, not least if they were grouped alongside one of the harder teams from pot four, such as Turkey, Slovenia or Ireland.
However, should lady luck finally smile on the Tartan Army, Scotland could face a group containing either Wales or Romania and three other beatable opponents. The disparity of the draw is immense, with the luck of the draw changing a group from potentially winnable to virtually impossible.
Never have Scotland needed a positive draw to have any chance to return to the World Cup stage once more. Despite our much improved side under Strachan, we are still totally at the mercy of the draw.
So cross your fingers and your toes and hope for a Russian miracle tomorrow afternoon.
Dream Draw – Wales, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Moldova
Nightmare Draw – Germany, Italy, Turkey, Macedonia, Georgia
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