5 reasons Scotland fans should BELIEVE we'll defeat Serbia and qualify for Euro 2020

Why should we Scots always expect the worse? For once, why can’t we believe things are going to break in our favour?
Scotland's players celebrate winning the penalty shoot-out against Israel in the play-off semi-final. Picture: SNSScotland's players celebrate winning the penalty shoot-out against Israel in the play-off semi-final. Picture: SNS
Scotland's players celebrate winning the penalty shoot-out against Israel in the play-off semi-final. Picture: SNS

Serbia aren't great

Since being eliminated from the 2018 World Cup, Serbia have played eight competitive matches at home. They failed to find victory against Hungary, Turkey, Ukraine, Portugal and Romania. Of the three games they won, they sneaked past minnows Montenegro and Luxembourg by one goal. The extra-time triumph in Norway is their only victory of any kind in their last six. This is not a team playing anywhere close to the sum of its parts and Scotland could easily take advantage of that.

No fans in Belgrade

Even without a home crowd, there are certain familiar advantages of playing on your own ground that will give Serbia an edge. But the advantage won't be anywhere near as strong as it would have been if the Rajko Mitić Stadium was packed out with supporters roaring on encouragement. If Serbia come out flat there is no crowd to lift them out of their funk, or shred the nerves of a Scotland side looking to protect a late-game lead.

It’s a strong squad getting stronger

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Steve Clarke was dealt a hellish disruption in the last international break when it was announced in the same day that six players would be absent due to a mixture of injury and Covid-19 protocols. While the loss of Ryan Fraser on this occasion is a significant blow, the Scotland boss does welcome back a sextet of key players, including Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie and Kieran Tierney. Scott McKenna will also be expected to come back into the defence, while Liam Palmer is an upgrade on Stephen O'Donnell at right wing-back. A team that just won three games in a row without conceding a goal just got a lot stronger on paper.

In-form attackers/Lyndon Dykes factor

It's no coincidence Scotland have started to resemble a respectable international outfit since the QPR striker chose his familial home over his birth nation of Australia. He is the perfect striker for this side. He works hard from the front, is excellent at holding up the ball and bringing others into play, and he's got confidence in front of goal. Since leaving Livingston he's hit the ground running in the English Championship and is in great form going into this match. The same also applies to John McGinn and Stuart Armstrong. The latter even helped fire his team top of the English Premier League for a few hours last weekend.

Scotland now have an identity and momentum

Clarke's improvement of this squad wasn't as immediate as many had expected or hoped, but finally the national team is starting to resemble the unit he moulded at Kilmarnock, a job that bordered on the miraculous at times. Against Slovakia and Czech Republic there was a clear plan in defence and attack. The players performed as a team and were faultlessly disciplined in both their individual and collective instructions. As a result, the visitors have the stronger momentum going into this one. Confidence will be high in the away camp and, due to their underdog status, should play with less pressure on their shoulders, even with the weight of 22 years of hurt. They should believe this is their time.

For a more upbeat look at our chances of qualification, read the alternative ‘5 reasons...’ article on Scotsman.com.

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