STEFAN Klos had wanted to see Scotland qualify for next summer’s European Championship finals but, having lost to Georgia on Friday night without mustering one shot on target, and now faced with trying to take something from tomorrow’s match with Germany, the former Rangers goalkeeper fears Gordon Strachan’s team could miss out.
“In football you have always got a chance to win a game but right now I think the German team is very strong. They are confident and they are top of the table and I’m sure they will come here to win the game and stay on top. But Scotland are usually much better against better teams. When they played in Poland I think they should have won there and Poland are a better team than Georgia so Scotland can always raise their game against good opponents.”
Those words offer the Tartan Army a glimmer of hope but the former top-flight ’keeper warns that it is no more than that. Like Scotland manager Strachan, he concedes that Scotland can win against the world champions, he just doesn’t consider it very likely.
“It would be great to see a Scotland team at the finals, I think it is time this happened, and before Friday night I thought there was a really big chance they could do it,” said Klos. “After Friday I think it is going to be difficult but I still hope that somehow they can qualify.”
If they do, the German suspects they will have to rely on favours from others and minus any points from his countrymen. Asked about the Scottish goalkeepers, he pointedly states that “the goalkeeper position is not where Scotland have a problem”. He classes all three candidates for the goalkeeping berth as top class, a description that even the most tartan-tinted dreamer would find hard to bestow on many others in the current Scotland squad. Since his installation as manager, the strength of Gordon Strachan’s squads has been the sum of the parts. That amounted to very little in Tbilisi and given that they are coming up against a Germany side finally firing on all cylinders after a shaky start to the qualifying campaign, it will take a massive upturn in performance and a liberal dash of luck for the Scots to overhaul their fortunes in front of a sell-out Hampden crowd tomorrow night.
“I think it is going to be tough on Monday,” warned Klos. “They had a slow start to the campaign but I think that was understandable. They had won the World Cup and then had to start again to qualify for the European Championships, knowing that even the second place team would qualify. The players didn’t have a holiday last summer so they were all tired and I think they found it hard to start again. Now they are focused. They are on top form and confident and they are top of the table and I don’t think they want to move away from there again. They always wanted to finish top of the group but they were third near the beginning, then the moved into second and now, after beating Poland, they are top of the table and they want to stay there.”
While Poland, Republic of Ireland and even Scotland got off the mark quickly in Group D, German fans were level-headed about their own team’s early form. Given the generosity of the qualifying berths offered by an expanded 2016 tournament, the belief was always there that they would recapture their form in plenty of time to stamp their authority on proceedings. It is Scotland’s bad luck to be hosting them just as that seems to be playing out.
“You always like to have your team winning but how the set-up is, and even the team finishing third has the chance to qualify for the Championships, nobody was really nervous when they weren’t getting the right results at the start,” Klos added. “Now they are winning games. After getting beat in Poland people were upset and saying we shouldn’t go down like that, but there was still no doubt that the team would qualify for France.”
In Scotland, recent history demanded a more cautiously optimistic approach and there is now the fear that even that seems to have been a tad unrealistic now that Scotland have dropped down the standings to fourth, and face the prospect of missing out on even a play-off spot.
They must find a way of carving out more chances while combating a German midfield which Klos says is likely to dominate. “The German team is quite technical and they have really good players, especially in midfield,” he said. “They are fit now and they have had a good break because there was nothing on during the summer. Okay they have some injuries with Marco Reus but more or less they are fit.
“When [Bastian] Schweinsteiger is fit, he is the boss, and you have Toni Kroos who can play the ball wherever he wants the ball to go and these two, they can dictate the game.”
They could also play a major part in dictating whether Scotland are forced to sit out yet another major championships.
Stefan Klos was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is a proud supporter of Scotland.