Scotland’s resurgence in Group F means that next fixture has now reached cup final-like status.
Strachan’s side dropped to fourth place on Monday on goal difference but their own 2-0 win over Malta means they can secure second place with two victories in their last two matches.
Slovakia, currently in second place, visit Hampden on 5 October before Scotland travel to face Slovenia three days later. But the second game will be rendered almost redundant from the Scots’ point of view unless they win the first fixture at Hampden.
A draw would all but end Scotland’s chances of qualifying, with Slovakia facing Malta at home in their last game. Strachan urged fans to make it another big World Cup night under the floodlights at a packed Hampden.
“Of course I can get excited,” Strachan said yesterday. “Once I get over here, once I meet this group [again] and get to the hotel at Mar Hall I just go, ‘bang, here we go’.”
He went on to urge the fans to roar the team to success.
“There are other things coming through at the minute that make us all excited,” he added.
“The young players give us real hope. On the right side of midfield I could have picked four – any one from four that would have done a great job there.”
Not so long ago Strachan’s prospects as Scotland manager looked bleak. But three wins and a draw from the last four fixtures have shot his side back into contention. Anticipation is now building ahead of a game set to recall a tense Hampden clash with Italy in a Euro 2008 qualifier ten years ago, when Scotland lost 2-1.
The manager looked further back to past games at Hampden when qualification was in sight. While Strachan made the point that it was slightly easier to qualify in the past, he was being hard on himself – he was part of the squad that played eight matches en route to the World Cup finals in Spain 1982.
“You’re going back a bit with Czechoslovakia [1973 and 1977] or Spain ,” he said. “They were big nights. It was like a play-off in those days.
“There were only three teams in the group [in 1974 and 1978 World Cup qualifying],” he added. “You both played Denmark and battered them and then it was really just a play-off. It was nothing like it is now. The grind and grind that goes on, to ask players to play ten games.
“I understand people want to go back and reminisce. But if you actually analyse it – to get to the World Cup you probably only had to beat one team.”