Scotland's World Cup play-off draw: Who we want, who we want to avoid, and the oh so ironic scenario

Christmas is in the air and the message is don’t be greedy. But surely we can make an exception for a World Cup play-off draw on which so much rests.

Scotland and Austria could be reacquainted in the play-off draw.
Scotland and Austria could be reacquainted in the play-off draw.

In that case, North Macedonia and then Wales – at home – please.

As the second lowest ranked side in the draw, it’s obvious Scotland would want to be drawn against the only country ranked below them.

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Despite qualifying for Euro 2020 and finishing second in a challenging World Cup qualifying group including Germany, Iceland and Romania, North Macedonia are currently ranked 67 in the world. Scotland, at present, are 38.

They would appear to offer Steve Clarke’s side the best chance of progressing to the play-off finals, held four days later.

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On the optimistic presumption Scotland get there, this is where things are likely to get very tricky indeed. Italy and Portugal ought to have a big letter A next to their names on Clarke’s pad: Avoid. The latter are still seething about failing to secure an automatic qualifying spot after conceding a last gasp goal to Serbia. But with Ronaldo on a one-man mission to reach his farewell World Cup, they are likely to prove an irresistible force. Italy are Italy and are not European champions for nothing.

Far better to be pitched on a pathway that might lead to a potential meeting with Wales. Joe Jordan will be the only Scot unhappy with this prospect. He will not be able to switch on his phone for interview requests relating to his part in Wales’ downfall in a do-or-die World Cup encounter at Anfield in 1977. Of course, Wales will be intent on revenge. But a one-off British derby to reach Qatar would be my dream scenario, preferably at a full Hampden Park.

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My own fear is a semi-final meeting with Austria and a typically Scottish scenario where we are ousted by a team we thought we had seen the last of in the qualifying group.

Whatever happens, we should know the answer around 5pm GMT on Friday – or maybe hoping a draw involving 12 teams can be done and dusted in an hour really is too much to wish for.

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