SCOTLAND winger Ikechi Anya believes Gordon Strachan’s side can turn this week’s friendly with Poland “into a sort of chess game” after the two countries were paired together in last weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifying draw.
Seven-and-a-bit months will elapse between Wednesday’s trip to Warsaw and the return to the Polish capital for the nations’ third Group D assignment. Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee considers the gap long enough for the competitive confrontation not to impact on how both teams approach the midweek game. Watford wing-back Anya has a slightly different take.
“I was thinking about it. We can turn it into a sort of chess game,” the 26-year-old says. “We can see their strengths and weaknesses but obviously they can see that for us as well. The gaffer will choose how he wants to play it and I am sure it will stand us in good stead come September time [when the Euro 2016 qualifiers start].”
Anya, as with most of his countryfolk, looks upon the group that Scotland were handed in Nice both with a degree of optimism and caution. “Germany are the standouts and then, if you categorise it even more, you would say Ireland and Poland,” he says. “But we have done well, we managed to beat Croatia, we beat Norway, we had a respectable draw against the USA so, if we can keep on improving as we have been, we should realistically be able to aim for at least second.”
Anya is relieved to have come through recent months feeling OK about his form and goal-nicking from his defensive role with the period bringing a few niggles and a managerial changeover that resulted in Giuseppe Sannino taking over at Watford following the resignation of Gianfranco Zola in December. Anya is a changed man, though only insomuch as he had the clippers taken to his Afro.
“The original plan was never to let it get that big,” he says. “It got to the point where I thought it’s a new year, let’s cut it off. I wouldn’t have been able to do it on the first [of January] so it was mid-December and I was near the hairdressers, so I just did it.”
PAST POLAND MEETINGS, compiled by CRAIG FOWLER
• June 1 1958, Poland 1 Scotland 2
The first-ever meeting between the nations was a World Cup warm-up match for the visitors, who competed in the finals in Sweden later that month. Former Celtic and Everton midfielder Bobby Collins scored twice to put the visitors 2-0 up and they held on for what is, to date, their only win over Poland.
• May 4 1960, Scotland 2 Poland 3
Scotland twice fought back from a goal down only to succumb to a friendly defeat. Denis Law scored the second of his record-setting 30 international goals and Ian St John added the other, but the home side could not respond for a third time once Ernest Pol scored again for Poland.
• May 23 1965, Poland 1 Scotland 1
When former Scotland boss Ian McColl left to take charge of Sunderland, Jock Stein was placed in temporary charge. His first match was this draw in Warsaw with Law netting an equaliser. It was a creditable result in Scotland’s second match of the 1966 World Cup qualifying campaign.
• Oct 13 1965, Scotland 1 Poland 2
This devastating loss cost Scotland the chance to go to the 1966 World Cup in England. Billy McNeill’s 13th-minute goal gave the hosts the lead, only for Poland to score twice in as many minutes late in the match. The two points dropped turned out to be the exact margin of difference between Scotland and group winners Italy.
• May 28 1980, Poland 1 Scotland 0
Two months after failing to qualify for the 1980 European Championship and four days after losing 2-0 to England at Hampden, the Scots slumped to another defeat in a friendly in Poznan. Zbigniew Boniek scored the only goal of the game with 20 minutes remaining.
6 May 19 1990 Scotland 1 Poland 1 The home side were poised to get the Polish hoodoo off their back when they led through a first-half Maurice Johnston strike. Things were going well for Andy Roxburgh’s side until Gary Gillespie inadvertently put through his own net and the second of three Italia 90 warm-up matches ended in a draw.
• Apr 25 2001, Poland 1 Scotland 1
With the 2002 World Cup qualification campaign taking a break for six months, Craig Brown put together an experimental squad for this friendly in Bydgoszcz. Seven players made their international debut in the draw – the more notable names being Gavin Rae and Kenny Miller – which was achieved with Scott Booth’s second half equaliser.