Scotland still have a route map to Qatar 2022 - here's what they need to do

Two points from the opening two World Cup qualifiers has left the nation feeling deflated.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has little margin for error after two opening draws in World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke has little margin for error after two opening draws in World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Steve Clarke admits he doesn't know whether that represents a good start on the road to Qatar 2022 or not.

"I can't predict the future," he said after the 1-1 draw with Israel on Sunday, which followed the 2-2 scoreline against Austria three days earlier.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

"I don't know if it's two good points or we've dropped four points that are going to be costly. It's very difficult to tell."

What Scotland can do is look to the past, and the dead ends that failing to take maximum points from winnable fixtures leads to.

Clarke is right though. It is too early to completely write off Scotland's chances of securing a top two place in Group F. The first two results have been damaging, but not fatal. Avoiding defeat ensured that.

There are still eight qualifiers left, 24 points up for grabs, and plenty to play for, but the goalposts have moved in terms of what Scotland now need from their remaining fixtures.

On average, 21 points is what it will take for at least second place. Scotland are playing catch-up and here's what they need to do to stay on track ...

Mar 31 - Faroe Island (h) - WIN

The Faroes are improving, but anything other than three points at Hampden would be a total disaster. Taking the lead in Austria shows the islanders are not to be taken lightly, but this is a must-win.

Sep 1 - Denmark (a) - LOSE

Being realistic, despite securing qualification for the Euros, Scotland have not shown any signs under Clarke that they have improved enough to secure any points away to a quality top seed.

Sep 4 - Moldova (h) - WIN

Failure to beat the group minnows at home would be the equivalent of forfeiting the qualification campaign. A team ranked 177th in the world should be taken care of comfortably at Hampden.

Sep 7 - Austria (a) - DRAW

Having been held to a draw in Glasgow, we now need to do likewise to them in Vienna. If Scotland are in direct competition with Austria for second then this match falls into the must-not-lose category.

Oct 9 - Israel (h) - WIN

Having failed in four attempts, Clarke will need to beat Israel over 90 minutes at the fifth time of asking. Team set-up will be crucial.

Oct 12 - Faroe Islands (a) - WIN

Berti Vogts' Scotland side dropped two points in Toftir in a 2-2 draw in 2002 and still managed to make the play-offs for Euro 2004. Clarke will have no such luxury this time around.

Nov 12 - Moldova (a) - WIN

Scotland have never made light work of away matches against the group minnows – think Kazakhstan, Georgia x 2, Macedonia. Our last visit to Chișinău in 2004 ended in a 1-1 draw. It was fatal for our World Cup hopes then, and would be now.

Nov 15 - Denmark (h) - WIN

Win or bust final home match against the top seeds, who may well have already qualified. It's a situation most Scotland fans would accept right now. A famous win would take us to 21 points and into a play-off.

A message from the Editor:

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today