GORDON Strachan has warned his players to be wary of Gibraltar at Hampden this evening because the Group D minnows have eradicated the “fun side” from their game.
The Scotland head coach expects to face a “wiser” team than the one which conceded 21 goals in the opening four matches of what is their inaugural qualifying campaign.
Strachan’s sentiments were echoed by Davie Wilson, the Scots exile who will take charge of the islanders for the first time today. Wilson said he was determined that his team would improve on some “amateurish” defending in the 4-0 defeat by Germany last time out – a scoreline considered creditable on the back of 7-0 thrashings by the Republic of Ireland and Poland.
Wilson said he had been working hard on his team keeping their shape, and avoiding giving “too much respect” through being pulled out of position to double up on opponents. The Gibraltar coach said he and his squad had worked hard on tactics. For Strachan, this switch in emphasis introduces a potential element of awkwardness to what should be the most one-sided encounter of Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualifiers.
“They have done a couple of changes and from really just enjoying their first couple of games to now going, ‘no, we have to be a bit more difficult than this’,” the Scotland manager said. “The fun element has gone out of it and the reality is they don’t want to get beat by sevens and eights, and they made that clear against Germany. They have got more realistic now. They changed the goalie. That might not be a big thing. They started with a back four, now it’s a back three which goes into a back five.”
The guaranteed victory against the newest and smallest nation to UEFA competition could allow Scotland to move top of their section – that scenario dependent on Georgia holding Germany on their own patch and the Republic taking something from their home encounter with Poland. Such a turn of events at the halfway point would not be insignificant for Strachan.
“I’ll look at the table and, if we’re top, I’ll go ‘that great’,” he said. “It would be a boost and I’d look at it and think ‘that’s fantastic, that’s where we want to be’.”
Strachan hinted that there might be role at some point tonight for Blackburn Rovers’ Jordan Rhodes. Yet, the Scotland manager also bristled at suggestions Rhodes’ deployment could be a “one-off”. Previously, Strachan suggested the striker wasn’t suited to playing on his own up front.
“It can’t be a one-off because we are playing two games. He’s already been playing in one and he’s going to play in another one. So that’s two,” Strachan said, a reference to the cap Rhodes earned from the bench in the midweek win over Northern Ireland.
Strachan is expected to name Scott Brown as captain. Allan McGregor is believed not to have trained yesterday, paving the way for David Marshall to continue in goal, the goalkeeper having played all four previous Group D encounters.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS