GORDON Strachan has committed Scotland to the pursuit of a victory in Dublin which would put them five points clear of rivals Republic of Ireland in the race for Euro 2016 qualification.
The Scotland manager accepts that a draw against Martin O’Neill’s team in their next Group D fixture on 13 June would be a positive result.
Sunday’s 6-1 win over Gibraltar at Hampden, coupled with the 1-1 draw between the Irish and Poland at the Aviva Stadium left the Scots one point behind the unbeaten Poles, who lead the group at the halfway stage.
Scotland’s 1-0 win over the Irish in Glasgow last November means a draw between the teams in Dublin would ensure Strachan’s men hold the edge between them on head-to-head criteria in the event both finish level on points.
But Strachan, who has praised his players for re-igniting public enthusiasm for the national team with their performances and results so far, insists he will target all three points in the potentially pivotal showdown.
“Any wins are big wins in the group from now on in and you have to go for the wins,” said Strachan. “That’s the way we will approach the game in Dublin, we’ll be going there to win.
“A draw would not be a bad result for us but I have no idea how to set up a team to draw a game of football. I’ve not been with a manger yet who sets up his team for a draw. If it happens, then it happens, but our intention will be to win the match.
“People are getting excited about Scotland again and what’s happened to create that excitement is the standard of our first five performances in the group. It’s not just been one performance or two – it’s been five performances which have allowed us to get into this position where we can look forward to the games that are coming up.
“The players have made it exciting for everyone. The Irish players did their bit on Sunday night as well by scoring that late equaliser against Poland. It means this next game in Dublin is going to be a terrific spectacle.
“You can’t say we would knock Ireland out of the equation if we beat them because, if you look at their games, they’ve scored three of their goals in the last few minutes. You can’t knock them out of anything.
“So they will keep going right until the end of this campaign. But this is without doubt the most exciting group there is anywhere in Europe. It just so happens we’re in it.
“To be fair, it’s a lot better than being in a group which is already over and done with as has been the case in the past. There is nothing to look forward to, nothing to get excited about. You can’t say that this time.
“The group is alive. You’ve had an improvement in the Republic of Ireland, an improvement in Scotland and an improvement in Poland which has made it that way. Maybe you’ve also had a settling in period for a new Germany team. All of it has come together to make this group.”
While Strachan is able to reflect with satisfaction on the first half of the campaign, he did not enjoy the experience of watching Gibraltar equalise on Sunday during a less than convincing start to the match by his team.
“It was a totally strange game because we went into it on a hiding to nothing,” he added. “You know if you don’t score six or seven, you are going to get it in the neck.
“When Gibraltar scored I just thought to myself ‘dear oh dear, I didn’t see that coming’. We felt the game would be played almost entirely in Gibraltar’s half because that’s the way we’ve seen them play in previous games.
“But I did tell the players to be careful early in the game because Gibraltar might take a wee chance to get players up the park. We told them it could bite them on the bum and that’s what happened.
“People may say there was no real damage done in the end, but my brains were scrambled for five minutes after they scored.”
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