Scotland World Cup play-off: Reasons to be cheerful not fearful with Ukraine, Wales and Austria in wait - opinion

All in all, Scotland can be quite happy with their lot in the World Cup play-off draw. It could have been a lot worse.

But it’s a favourable draw, not an easy one. Ukraine, ranked 25th in the world, will not be straightforward opponents for Steve Clarke and his side next March, but they are not insurmountable.

Favour was already assured with the win over Denmark guaranteeing a home game – the opposite way around and a trip to Donetsk or Kiev would be a daunting prospect.

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Both sides though, will fancy their chances.

Scotland might need another good night in Vienna to qualify for Qatar. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
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Scotland can hark back to heady days under Alex McLeish and Walter Smith, where a Lee McCulloch drive had Hampden roaring to a 3-1 win, but Ukraine have their own good memories of the National Stadium too – and more recent. They successfully eliminated Sweden from Euro 2020 in their last 16 match in Mount Florida, so they have form in Glasgow too.

The Tartan Army though, can dare to dream. It is not the minnows of North Macedonia that Scotsman sportswriter Alan Pattullo requested on his wish-list, but the other section is exactly as he wanted.

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Wales or Austria, sure it’s away from home but it’s favourable nevertheless. It’s not Italy. It’s not Ronaldo. It’s not Russia.

It’s a trip either down the road, with a similar climate and conditions the vast majority of players will be playing in by next March, or a trip to Vienna – where Scotland have already won. That September night in the Ernst Happel Stadium ignited Scotland’s Qatar dreams and proved the catalyst for qualification to this stage.

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It could do again.

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