Scotland captain Andrew Robertson has labelled the country’s Nations League trip to Albania next month “now or never”, writes Andrew Smith.
While the Liverpool defender claimed that Alex McLeish’s side produced a “reaction” to their dismal 2-1 loss in Israel despite going down 3-1 to Portugal last night, he accepts they must step it up again when they take to the pitch in Shkoder on November 17 and then host Israel at Hampden three days later to avoid a Nations League oblivion considered unthinkable when the draw for the inaugural edition of the competition was made.
To achieve the first part of that double they will require to record a first win in five years over a top 100-ranked UEFA side in their own backyard.
“We have to win in Albania. It’s now or never,” the 24-year-old said. “The two games are big and hopefully we will be spot on when we meet up. We are in a four-game group and we have two games left. They are must win.
Robertson was asked if they owed it to Alex McLeish to relieve the pressure on the manager next month which could become intolerable if they do not claim the Euro 2020 play-off place that the winners of their section will earn – and for which the Scots were initially strong favourites.
“Yes. We have to step up for the manager, as he doesn’t cross the white lines,” he said. “We let him down on Thursday. We weren’t good enough.
“We have a squad that can cope with the pressure. I’m sure the younger lads won’t have any fear. But it’s up to the experienced boys like me, Naisy [Steven Naismith] and Charlie [Mulgrew] to help the younger ones.
“It’s a four-game group and that’s maybe the slight downfall of the Nations League – there is no margin for error. It’s a three-team league and the next two games are must win. We have to embrace the situation and look forward to the games. There is no point shying away from that. I hope the Israel defeat will be in our minds in Albania – but that we use it as a positive. We don’t want to go through that again and I’m sure the lads won’t use it as a negative.”