David Gunn gives his take as Scotland put in an impressive performance to defeat Lithuania in their World Cup qualifier.
Our hopes are still alive
Ultimately, we may have been better off losing to Slovenia and just got this all over with - but where is the fun in that? Scotland’s prospects are suddenly no longer a distant hope with tonight’s result. At first glance, Slovakia’s win over Slovenia may be a bit of a blow, but in all likelihood Scotland need to win every one of their final games to qualify, as otherwise they risk missing out as the second place team with the lowest points total. If we can take care of business at home to Malta and England can do likewise against Slovakia, that will set up a crunch match at Hampden. Win that and Scotland will be in second place going into a final group game against Slovenia, who may not have anything to play for at that point. Dare to dream, people. Dare to dream.
Price tags aren’t always indicative of the best players
Oliver Burke, Steven Fletcher, Ross McCormack, Robert Snodgrass, Matt Ritchie, Jordan Rhodes, Steven Naismith. Seven of the most expensive players in Scotland’s history, perhaps even the seven most expensive, and none of them started against Lithuania tonight. In fact, three of those players started as the Scotland attack when the nation lost to Slovakia a year ago, a match which seemed to have all but killed our chances of making the World Cup.
Confidence produces results
Gordon Strachan stuck with his method of picking every Celtic player involved in the squad and it’s hard to argue with the results. Scotland were as confident and composed on the football as they’ve been in a long time, playing with an air of self belief that comes with winning. Strachan, perhaps influenced by this, took it a step further by selecting Matt Philips over Robert Snodgrass. The latter has been a favourite of Strachan’s but hasn’t played too often this year, while Phillips has been impressing for the Baggies. It was an inspired selection with Phillips, especially in the opening period, excelling on the left of midfield.
Leigh Griffiths continues to prove his worth
There should be absolutely no doubt that Griffiths is Scotland’s first-choice striker now. He didn’t score against Lithuania, but that’s what made his display so impressive. He played well without getting on the scoresheet, which used to be the knock on him at the international level. Throughout the game he linked well with team-mates, producing an assist for the first and third goals, and still showed himself to be a threat around the opposing penalty box, even if the ball didn’t find the back of the net on this occasion.
Stuart Armstrong adds an extra dimension
It’s been a long time since Scotland had a midfielder who was always looking for the ball, always wanting to drive the team forward, and who could make things happen around the opposing penalty area. This was only his third game for the national side, but it was his second man-of-the-match performance, and from watching him you’d have thought he’d been playing international football for a decade. He’s of immense importance for the rest of the campaign. Scotland fans should be hoping he gets himself back in the Celtic side and is still brimming with confidence when Slovakia come to Hampden.