On Saturday night, Scotland will step into a new era with Steve Clarke taking charge of the National Team for the first time.
The former Kilmarnock manager will be targeting a positive result against Cyprus before embarking on the daunting trip to Brussels to take on the #1 ranked Belgium on Tuesday night.
First things first, we play Cyprus (FIFA Rank 89) on matchday 3. Here’s the preview:
Where were we?
Scotland’s inauspicious start to Euro 2020 Qualifying – a humbling 0-3 loss in Astana followed by a 2-0 win over San Marino – saw the end of Alex McLeish’s second spell with the National Team.
Two games in, Scotland find themselves 5th in the group, level on 3pts with Russia, Kazakhstan & Cyprus.
Record v Cyprus Played 5, won 5, scored 20, conceded 4
Last Meeting Cyprus 1-2 Scotland – International Friendly 11 November 2011. Memorable for an absolute wonder goal from Kenny Miller and a fine solo effort from Jamie Mackie - https://youtu.be/SPo4HsHfJbA
Who’s in the Squad?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Steve Clarke has rewarded some of the players who performed so well for him this season at Kilmarnock with Scotland call-ups.
Right back Stephen O’Donnell continues in the squad, while Stuart Findlay, Greg Taylor and Eamonn Brophy are all uncapped and could make their first senior appearances for their country.
Elsewhere in the squad, Liam Kelly (Livingston) & Michael Devlin (Aberdeen) have been rewarded for their form this season with debut call ups.
Many of the squad should be joining in high spirits, from the Celtic contingent fresh from securing a Treble Treble, Captain Andy Robertson a Champions League winner and John McGinn scoring at Wembley to secure Aston Villa’s Premier League place for next season.
Cyprus opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a resounding 5-0 win over San Marino at home before early goals from Eden Hazard and Batshuayi saw them fall 2-0 to Belgium.
Their trip to Hampden will be their first away game of the campaign. In the Nations League, Cyprus took 1 point away from home against Slovenia, losing in Bulgaria and Norway.
There are precious few goals in the Cyprus squad – 30 international goals across the current squad.
Their top scorer in the squad is Pieros Sotiriou, a 26-year-old striker for Danish champions FC Copenhagen. He has 8 international goals in 33 caps and will have to be watched by the Scotland defence should he get the nod.
Despite the short time that Steve Clarke has had to work with the squad, Scotland fans should take heart from the way he came into a Kilmarnock side struggling at the foot of the SPFL Premiership and masterminded draws at Celtic Park and Ibrox.
The Tartan Army will be desperate to maintain the optimism Clarke’s appointment has generated with a win over the Cypriots at Hampden.
While there are very few international goals (14) in the Scotland squad, with players like Ryan Fraser, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and John McGinn all capable of creating and finishing chances from wide / midfield, Scotland *should* be able to get their Euro 2020 campaign back on track with a win.
Predicted Score – Scotland 2-0 Cyprus (Forrest, Brophy)
Elsewhere in Group I on Matchday 3:
Russia v San Marino
Belgium v Kazakhstan
With Russia and Belgium looking strong favourites to pick up wins at home, it pushes Scotland's tie with Cyprus even deeper into the 'must win' category.