Date: 31st August 2015
AS Gordon Strachan’s squad assembles for training ahead of two huge fixtures for the Tartan Army, the popular manager has an opportunity to put right one of Scotland’s most recent disasters.
His rejuvenated side are in with a chance of qualifying for France 2016, but even with a combination of impressive performances and results so far, they still trail Poland and Germany in a very tough group.
With the world champions entertaining the Poles on Friday, Strachan knows that the Georgia game offers an excellent opening to draw level with at least one of the competitors for the top two automatic qualification spots with just three games remaining.
However, Georgia has represented an even better chance for the national team to once again qualify for a major tournament which was unforgettably spurned.
In 2007, Scotland headed to Georgia on the back of an emphatic victory over Ukraine which saw the Tartan Army leading then world champions Italy by one point and losing finalists France by two points with just two games remaining.
Euro 2008 was well within grasp and with it a glorious return to major tournament football at the expense of one of the biggest powers in world football.
Alex McLeish was confident, deciding to go with two strikers against a team then ranked 63 places beneath the squad and with nothing to gain from the fixture.
Unfortunately, the Georgians also had nothing to lose and proceeded to beat a ragged and overconfident Scotland team 2 – 0, despite fielding three teenagers in the process.
While the squad may have been tired from the Ukraine game just three days before, as well as having a host of suspended and injured players, there were really no excuses for the failure to capitalise on such a phenomenal group performance having already put France to the sword twice.
Scotland then had to face the much more difficult prospect of world champions Italy at Hampden to secure qualification. A gutsy performance was undone at the end thanks to one of the worst refereeing decisions of all time. It really was unbelievable. (Click this link if you can bear to put yourself through it again).
But the group was ultimately lost on Georgian soil. Now Strachan has a chance to put that result to bed and turn the match into one that finally catapulted the Tartan Army into a major tournament as it should have done all those years ago.
There will still be work to be done, of course, but the similarity remains. This game is imperative to ensure that another promising qualification group does not turn into yet another near-miss.
Should Germany beat Poland as most would expect on Friday night, Scotland would draw level with the Poles heading into the last three fixtures if we finally leave Georgia with three points.
And while we still have Germany to face the following Monday, there is a lot of belief within the Tartan Army that Strachan’s side have every chance of taking something from the visit of the world champions as they visit a sold-out Hampden Park.
Even should we lose to Germany, we still have Poland to welcome to Hampden in what will be a hugely important game which will likely decide the qualifying fate of all three teams in October.
That remains in the future, though, and all attention must focus on the present. Georgia is the first hurdle and must be given all the teams consideration given it has tripped us up on the home straight once before.
Once Georgia are safely cleared we can, then begin to believe again as we have the chance to decide our qualification fate under the lights of Hampden once more.
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