PREVIEW – Scotland v Kazakhstan #SCOKAZ
Scotland return to Hampden Park on Tuesday night to close out Euro 2020 Qualifying Group I, a group book-ended with matches against Kazakhstan.
This match represents an opportunity to exorcise the demons of one of Scotland’s worst moments in living memory, the 0-3 reverse endured by Alex McLeish’s side in March 2019.
Scotland enter this game on the back of two consecutive wins, the 6-0 hammering of San Marino last month and Saturday’s 2-1 victory in Cyprus.
Steve Clarke will be desperate for the morale boost and momentum of a third consecutive victory, made more emotionally significant given our recent history with the Kazakhs to act as a springboard into the Nations League Playoffs in March.
On that note, a draw on Friday (22 November) will determine Scotland’s Semi Final opponents – likely to be either Israel or Bulgaria.
On the same day a draw will also determine which side of our Nations League Playoff will host the Final – whether Hampden will host the Final (should Scotland progress) or the Tartan Army will face a trip to Serbia or Norway. The fact Scotland fans will only have five days’ notice to book travel/accommodation to a Playoff Final is less than ideal, an unfortunate quirk of the system.
Where were we?
Scotland’s victory in Nicosia on Saturday afternoon saw us climb to third, where were seeded in the first place. Ironically, should the Nations League not have existed and the qualifying process followed that of Euro 2016, third place would have been enough for a Playoff place.
Given that Cyprus travel to Brussels on Match Day 10, anything other than a loss for Scotland would see third place secured.
Record v Kazakhstan Played 1, Won 0, Drawn 0, Lost 0 – Win % - 0%
You know and I know what our only previous result v Kazakhstan was. It was a painful experience for everyone who watched. Should you have a masochistic streak, remind yourself below:
Only two of Scotland’s starters in Astana are not in the squad (Scott Bain & David Bates) meaning there will be plenty of players keen to avenge that result.
The Scotland Squad Steven Naismith limped off against Cyprus while winning his 50th cap and a place on the Scottish FA Roll of Honour. Steve Clarke has said he was “fine”.
In other striking new, Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland has departed the squad, replaced by Kilmarnock’s Eamonn Brophy. ‘The Wolf’ has three goals and 1 assist so far this season.
Kazakhstan have failed to live up to the promise of their opening day performance against Scotland. Since then their only points have come in a 4-0 home win v San Marino and a 1-1 draw in Nicosia. On Saturday night they beat San Marino 3-1 away, conceding the first goal San Marino have scored at home since 2013.
However, as a supporter of the team who conceded the first competitive goal Gibraltar ever scored, this resident of a glass house will gladly pass by that bucket of rocks.
While there is little to be play for in the group, momentum is essential. The Scottish FA have tickets to sell for Scotland’s home Playoff Semi Final and it’s essential the team put on a show to rally the support of the country.
Predicted Score – Scotland 2-1 Kazakhstan
Predicted Scotland XI
With only a couple of days turnaround since the game in Nicosia, expect Steve Clarke to shuffle the deck on Tuesday. Steven Naismith came off with a knock, either Oli McBurnie or Eamonn Brophy expect to come in.
Given Callum McGregor has played more minutes than any Scotland player this season, expect to see his minutes managed ahead of a relentless festive season. John Fleck and Stuart Armstrong will be hoping to start in midfield.
Elsewhere in Group I
Belgium v Cyprus – The Red Devils can secure a 100% record in qualifying. They will be a force to be reckoned with next summer.
San Marino v Russia – Both teams are locked in their current positions.