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Richard Gordon column: After opening exchanges, Scotland now need marquee result to reach World Cup

Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the World Cup qualifier between Scotland and the Faroe Islands.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the World Cup qualifier between Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

Three games in and it already looks like a long shot for Scotland to qualify automatically for the 2022 World Cup finals.

An unbeaten start which has garnered five points is a decent enough haul, but Denmark look as if they’re going to run away with Group F and, with Austria in there too, making the play-offs as runners-up is going to be quite a challenge.

It will require at least one marquee result, given how the opening exchanges have turned out.

The Scots are probably going to have to win in Vienna in September and hope to share the spoils with the Danes, if they are to finish ahead of Austria – and that’s on the assumption there are no further slip-ups against the countries ranked below them.

The draws in the first couple of games left Steve Clarke’s side already chasing the top two seeds, the 1-1 in Tel Aviv being particularly disappointing.

Having changed formation at half-time, Scotland were much better after the interval but, as is so often the case, they failed to capitalise on their superiority and the game just faded away from them. We rarely, if ever, looked like getting a winner in the final half-hour.

Ryan Fraser celebrates his equaliser in Israel.

A first victory of the campaign against Faroe Islands gave Group F a better look for us and the vibrant display certainly offered hope for the future. In what was generally a very good showing, Kieran Tierney was outstanding and John McGinn again proved his worth at international level.

The Aston Villa midfielder became just the 23rd player to reach double figures in goals for the national team and in the history of the game only 15 men have scored more often than the 26-year-old. He is going to be a key figure in coming seasons.

John McGinn netted twice against Faroe Islands.

The World Cup qualifying now goes on the back burner as attention turns to the Euros this summer.

The Scots face tough matches at Hampden and Wembley, but if they can put in the performances and somehow reach the knockout stages it could give them the platform to rally when world qualification resumes in the autumn.

Attention will now turn to the make-up of Steve Clarke’s 23-man squad for the Euro finals and, by my reckoning, there is a maximum of four places up for grabs.

Assuming everyone is fit, right now there are 19 certainties and most of us could easily rhyme them off.

The only Dons player, Andrew Considine, is one of those who will be sweating between now and the big announcement.

Aberdeen veteran Andy Considine reveals how famous Yes Sir, I Can Boogie stag do music video came about

Others who have been involved, but who may yet miss out, include John Fleck, Liam Cooper, James Forrest, Lawrence Shankland and Liam Palmer.

Kevin Nisbet made his debut on Wednesday. If he gets a few goals for Hibernian in the remainder of the campaign, I would expect him to make it and, with Lyndon Dykes and Ché Adams sure to be included, that might mean Oli McBurnie’s time is over.

I fear it is too late for anyone outwith the group to break through, which will be disappointing for the likes of David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour, both of whom should have long international careers ahead of them.

Clarke is a loyal manager. His final 23 will be drawn from those who have served him well, but that won’t quell the discussion and debate in the weeks ahead.

Fantastic gesture from deprived Cove

Cove Rangers should have been anticipating the biggest occasion in the club’s history tomorrow evening with their Scottish Cup tie at Ibrox.

It is still a massive game for them, but the empty stands not only detract from the atmosphere, they also deny Cove a huge cash windfall.

In a bid to generate some money, they have launched their #nothingwithoutfans campaign, offering supporters who would otherwise have made the trip to Glasgow the chance to buy virtual tickets and win some superb prizes.

It could be a real financial boost for Cove, but also the NHS staff who have endured a draining year trying to cope with the effects of the pandemic as 15% of the proceeds will be donated to them, which is a fantastic gesture.

Cove’s dreams of cup glory are likely to end in Glasgow.

But, given what Brora Rangers did to Hearts, you never know.

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