REVIEW – Scotland 3-1 Kazakhstan
Scotland ended Euro 2020 Qualifying, 2019 and the decade with an impressive come-from-behind win at Hampden Park tonight, beating Kazakhstan 3-1.
Departing the field at half time facing a 1-0 deficit & a smattering of boos, the team turned it around with three well taken goals and enough chances for more in the second half. Man-of-the-match John McGinn netted a brace either side of captain Steven Naismith scoring a header on his 51st cap.
Steve Clarke confounded the predictors by naming the exact same starting 11 that secured the win in Cyprus on Saturday.
A move clearly designed to improve the consistency of the performance. In the first half, Scotland were, well, fine. They bossed possession and territory, creating openings down the flanks without ever really threatening the Kazakh goal.
If you’ve watched Scotland long enough, you can probably guess what happened next. Liam Palmer’s slack pass led to a quick transition into Kazakh counter attack. Baktiyor Zainutdinov was allowed the freedom of Hampden Park to bear down on goal before unleashing a very impressive shot into David Marshall’s top corner. 0-1 Kazakhstan.
A ‘Super’ Second Half
If there was one thing Scotland needed in the second half, it was to up the tempo. To the relief of the Tartan Army, that’s exactly what they did. The ball was rifled into the feet of Steve Naismith inside the ‘D’ who was felled from behind (not for the first time). Free kick.
He’s ‘meatball’ to some, ‘Super’ to the rest of us, John McGinn stepped up and rifled the free kick through a thicket of legs into the net. Three minutes into the 2nd half and Scotland were level.
What followed were some excellent Scotland chances, their slicker passing causing havoc at the back for Kazakhstan. James Forrest, Steven Naismith and Callum McGregor all spurning good chances.
The go-ahead goal did come, and it would be captain Steven Naismith who delivered it. Liam Palmer’s cross from the right was deflected up in the air, John McGinn tangled with the keeper and Steven Naismith was there at the back post to nod home from 3 yards out.
As time expired, there was time enough for Greg Taylor to tee up John McGinn, making a trademark late surge into the box to score his second and Scotland’s third.
Man of the Match – ‘Super’ John McGinn (who else?)
In John McGinn we have a genuine star. A player who is pivotal to his club side, playing in the English Premier League and delivering that form for Scotland. He has certainly thrived on moving higher up the pitch for club & country.
He has six goals in his last three competitive games for Scotland. The first name on the team-sheet for March.
Strong Body, Stronger Mind
What has really impressed over the past two matches is the mental strength of the group. Away in Russia in October, Scotland folded after conceding, finding themselves 4-0 down in short order.
In Nicosia, the blow of an equaliser was shaken off with the lead retaken in 2 minutes. Tonight, Scotland went in at half-time behind before surging back and scoring three with chances for more in the second half.
This mental strength will surely be tested in March’s Nations League Playoffs.
Playoffs on the Horizon
Speaking of the Playoffs, there has been a slight change of plan. Wales qualifying automatically has added Hungary to our list of potential opponents in the Semi-Final. They are currently 50th in the world and, while they started qualifying impressively with three wins in the first four – including wins v Croatia and Wales – they have badly tailed off, winning one of their last six games.
All eyes will be on Friday’s draw to determine Scotland’s Semi-Final opponent (11am UK time).
One hopes the Playoff Semi-Final (and potential home Final) will be priced appropriately and a sell-out crowd can roar Scotland to their first major finals in 22 years!