Scotland can still better ‘bang average’ group rivals

John Collins believes Scotland can recover. Picture: John Devlin
John Collins believes Scotland can recover. Picture: John Devlin
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John Collins believes Scotland can recover from their Slovakia nightmare and battle “bang average” rivals for second place in their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying pool.

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The former Scotland midfielder watched the grim spectacle of Gordon Strachan’s national team losing 3-0 in Trnava on Tuesday night, a result that severely dents their hopes of reaching the finals.

An under-performing England remain firm favourites to win Group F, with the Scots sitting fourth after beating Malta and drawing 1-1 with Lithuania before their Slovakia surrender.

But the Scots are behind sides Collins is hoping they can catch, being a point adrift of both Lithuania and Slovenia, and will still be eyeing at least a play-off place as group runners-up.

Collins said of the Scots’ dismal away day: “The worst thing is that Slovakia are a very average team. I felt we could go there and get a result but we never.

“What we’re lacking is creativity in the final third, we’re not creating enough chances.

“At this moment in time when you’re watching, you’re thinking that is the big question - do we have the players who can be creative in international football?

“There’s little periods in games when you say yes we have, we look like we’re a decent team, and then there’s other periods when you can play for an hour and not create too many chances.”

Collins told BBC Radio 5 Live: “In football a lot’s got to do with confidence. It’s not a team that’s full of confidence, the players aren’t playing with great confidence.

“But the positive is we’re still in the group.

“England have dropped two points last night and they’re sitting top on seven; Lithuania, who are bang average - I think we’re a better team than them - they’re on five points; and Slovenia - we’re as good as them - they’re on five points.

“So if we can get a spark from somewhere then I think second place is still possible, and I’m being optimistic of course.”

The next task for Scotland is the Wembley clash with England on November 11.

Scotland may take strength from the knowledge England have been going through their own problems, with the dramatic end to Sam Allardyce’s short reign running alongside the continuing debate over whether captain Wayne Rooney can justify his place. The Three Lions’ stuttering start to World Cup qualifying has not caused any serious damage though, with England goal-shy but still having accrued seven points from three games.

Collins sees reason for Scotland to take belief to London, saying: “We tend to be better when we’re the underdog, there’s less pressure.

“And we’ll certainly go to Wembley as underdogs.

“These recent games we’ve been the big favourites and we seem to struggle with the expectation of being the favourites.

“So we’ll go to Wembley as the underdogs and we’ll see - nothing to lose, all the pressure is on England. They’ll be expected to beat us and beat us comfortably. Anything’s possible in football.”

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