Scotland battle to keep World Cup hopes alive - Joel Sked
Scotland v Moldova. It’s not a game to get the pulse racing.
Yet, more than 35,000 tickets have been sold for the World Cup qualifier which Steve Clarke’s men need to win following defeat to Denmark on Tuesday.
It shows what a bit of positivity from reaching a tournament and reasonable pricing can do. The attendance will be a substantial increase on the last two games at Hampden Park pre-coronavirus against Kazakhstan and San Marino. It will also represent the country’s biggest home attendance since a World Cup qualifier with Slovakia in 2017.
However, just 82 days on from kicking off the Euro 2020 campaign with the defeat to Czech Republic, that feel-good factor is already in danger of being eroded. Scotland disappointed at the European Championships and then there were plenty of grumbles following the 2-0 loss to Denmark in Copenhagen, Clarke coming in for some understandable criticism due to some questionable decisions.
Scotland can all but wave goodbye to winning the group and gaining automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup. It’s about second place, meaning four points from the next two games - first Moldova then Austra - is bordering on essential. But more than that, Saturday’s match gives Clarke and his men a chance to give the fans something to be positive about once more, to engage them, to tell them this is a team going forward and keep the World Cup hopes alive.
The team played in front of fans at the Euros but it wasn’t the same with a reduced capacity and physical distancing. The Moldova match will be different. With kids tickets costing just £5, there will be so many youngsters there to captivate and inspire. On the flip side, the bigger the attendance the easier it can be for supporters to grow frustrated and let the team know how they are feeling.
There has been a semblance of gloom, of fatalism creeping back into the Scotland support. It’s only natural, it’s the default position. Yet, the World Cup dream is not over. Scotland and Steve Clarke have the opportunity to reignite that spark which has unfortunately started to fizzle out far too quickly after the summer of football.