Date: 12th November 2021
SFSA Scotland writer Ben Ramage looks ahead to a hugely significant clash with Moldova this evening.
Super John McGinn’s goal scoring touch holds the key to Scotland unlocking the door to World Cup promised land
It’s the song that took Euro 2020 by storm.
And if Scotland reach the World Cup in Qatar 2022, you better believe there’ll be millions more fans hearing a chant about a certain ‘Super’ John McGinn.
Not least the thousands of Tartan Army soldiers, myself included, who are desperate to sing it at a major tournament once again.
Being able to do so would mean Scotland had ended their World Cup exile that has seen us locked out of the biggest party in world football for 23 years.
There’s a long way to go, but as we also always sing, we have a dream.
Tonight Steve Clarke’s men have a chance to take another huge step towards making a long-overdue return to that promised land.
A nerve-wracking trip to minnows Moldova should, on paper, be a breeze.
But when you throw in the added pressure of knowing a victory there will guarantee us a World Cup play-off place for the first time since 1986, then the nerves start jangling.
Especially as we’ve seen this horror show too many times before.
Just hearing the word Georgia gives me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.
When the chips have been down in recent decades, Scotland have often crumbled under the pressure.
The thing that gives me hope this time around is that, under former St Mirren and Chelsea defender Steve Clarke, this Scotland side seems to have a steely resolve that we’ve formerly been missing on the biggest occasions.
In some of our most difficult and high-stakes matches in the last few years – Israel and Serbia away in the Euro 2020 play off semi-final and final respectively, England away at Euro 2020, Austria away in World Cup 2022 qualifying – this side have stood up to the challenge with aplomb.
Natural-born winners like Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor have helped bring a core strength to Clarke’s team that has seen them overcome many of their biggest hurdles.
With Moldova currently sitting at 181 in the FIFA world rankings, the task ahead in Chisinau tonight is much more mental than physical.
Even so, with talisman striker Lyndon Dykes and creative playmaker Ryan Christie both missing through suspension, there’s still a pressing need to find the goals that can secure a World Cup play-off spot with a game in hand.
Thankfully, we’ve got McGinn. Super John McGinn.
When Scotland have needed goals over the last three years, the ex-Hibs man has so often come up with the goods.
Eleven goals in 27 appearances is an incredible haul from midfield, especially for a country that historically has been far from prolific over the last three decades.
In this qualifying campaign alone, the Aston Villa star has scored in a crucial 2-2 draw with Austria, bagged a brace in a 4-0 win against the Faroe Islands and notched a crucial leveller in Scotland’s 3-2 win against Israel just last month.
With Dykes absent, someone else is going to have to step up and find a breakthrough against Moldova and there’s every chance that could well be Mr McGinn.
It was wonderful to hear how much he loved being joined by his brother and former Saint Paul on his debut in the country’s crucial 1-0 win away to Austria in September, describing the moment as “number one” in his entire career to date.
While that is a wonderful sentiment, with the brothers achieving what so many young siblings would dream of growing up kicking a ball around in the garden – just as I did with my brother many years ago – helping Scotland qualify for Qatar 2022 would certainly give that historic family moment a run for its money.
Returning to the Euros was special, but making the World Cup would be simply incredible.
The next step on that long-awaited journey starts tonight, and we might even have to add a ‘sir’ into John McGinn’s song if he helps us eventually end 24 years of hurt and sends us all on to Skyscanner to plot a route to Qatar next year.
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