• Gordon Sheach

Moldova v Scotland Preview

In the last year, Steve Clarke’s Scotland have faced several high-pressure, high-stakes moments.


A Playoff Final in Belgrade, a Euros match at Wembley, a crucial World Cup Qualifier in Vienna. Each time, Scotland returned positive results and impressive performances.

In terms of scale of achievement, a win in Moldova, the 181st ranked team in the world might eclipse them all.


Beat Moldova and Scotland will secure second place in a qualifying group for the first time since Euro 2004.


Beat Moldova and Scotland will finish second in a World Cup Qualifying campaign for the first time since 1998.


Beat Moldova and Scotland will secure a World Cup Playoff for the first time since 1986.


When Scotland qualified for Euro 2020, a narrative took hold that we’d qualified through the ‘back door’. That narrative wasn’t strictly unfair. Topping a Nations League group v Israel & Albania wasn’t the highest bar to reach a Playoff.


For this reason, following that up by securing a Playoff by being competitive over a ten-game qualifying campaign would represent real, tangible, measurable progress for this team.


Since losing our first qualifying game after the Euros (going down 0-2 in Denmark with only 16 outfield players available), Scotland have gone on an impressive run of four wins in a row to take us to within touching distance of the Playoffs.


While we’ve covered all the key questions around the Playoffs, first and foremost we need the result in Moldova to secure our place in the Playoffs before we return to Hampden to play Denmark on Monday.


The Stakes


For the Playoffs, it’s as simple as ‘win and we’re in’.


Should Israel drop points in Vienna, then Scotland matching their result would also secure the Playoff.


The Squad


As ever, Steve Clarke has kept changes to a minimum with Zander Clark replacing Liam Kelly as the third-choice goalkeeper, giving Clarke the opportunity to get a closer look at the St Johnstone keeper in training.


The biggest headline in the squad was the inclusion of Jacob Brown, the 23-year-old Stoke City forward who is eligible for Scotland through his mother. While admittedly little was known about Brown in Scotland, by all accounts he was close to receiving an u21 call before Covid struck.

At Stoke he often plays in a 3-5-2 system alongside former Scotland striker Steven Fletcher, meaning he should be able to slot into Steve Clarke’s system easily.



Record vs Moldova

Played 3 – Won 2 – Drawn 1 – Loss 1 – Goals 4 – Goals Against 1


Scotland last played Moldova in September when Lyndon Dykes’ early goal was enough for a 1-0 win at Hampden.

Our last trip to Moldova ended in ignominy, as it marked the end of Berti Vogts’ time in charge of the national team, with Steven Thompson salvaging a 1-1 draw. Remarkably, that result 17 years ago featured a 21-year-old Craig Gordon in goals, earning his 5th cap. All going well, he’ll earn his 63rd in Chișinău.


Predicted 11


We’ll be missing the presence of Lyndon Dykes & Ryan Christie up front, missing out with suspension.

At the weekend Grant Hanley & Ryan Fraser withdrew from the squad with injuries, making it more likely that Jacob Brown will make his debut alongside Che Adams.


Joining the squad as a late addition before the team flew out to Spain was Hearts' John Souttar, making his first appearance in a Scotland squad since being an unused sub for Steve Clarke's first two games back in 2019.



Currently one yellow card away from a ban are: Jack Hendry, Stephen O'Donnell, Andy Robertson, Nathan Patterson, John McGinn, Billy Gilmour, Kevin Nisbet and Che Adams.


Prediction


Historically, these kind of games in these kind of places against these kind of seeds are the ones when Scotland can come unstuck.


To their credit, until the late show in the Faroes, Steve Clarke’s Scotland side have never looked like they’re going to drop points against a bottom seed.


Should Scotland beat Moldova it will be the first time we’ve taken maximum points against the bottom two seeds in a qualifying campaign since World Cup 2002.


There’s a good chance this will be a tough, niggly match. Scotland need to be confident, proactive and get the job done.


Predicted Score – Moldova 0-2 Scotland