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Paul Third: Trust Scotland to deliver World Cup play-off place

Scotland captain Andy Robertson
Scotland captain Andy Robertson

Two down and hopefully just one to go for Scotland as they bid to book their World Cup 2022 play-off berth this week.

A campaign which started so poorly it had us all fearing Euro 2020 qualification was a flash in the pan is nearing its conclusion with the national team having turned it all around quite magnificently to be fair.

Well played Steve Clarke, well played.

But before we all go patting ourselves on the back and enlisting Baccara for another rendition of ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ there is the small matter of collecting the three more points needed to be absolutely sure we’re in the hat for the play-off draw.

Four points clear of third place with two games remaining is an unusual position for Scotland to be in but here we are, daring to dream of donning the kilts to Qatar. How long they will stay on for should we qualify for the finals is another matter but we can worry about that later.

Finish line in sight for Scotland

The important bit is the last step across the group stage finish line and Scotland are first up with their 5pm kick-off in Moldova on Friday.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke

What we want – no what we need – is for Clarke and his players to be boarding the party plane back to Scotland knowing it is job done and the final match against Denmark, who have won Group F, does not matter on Monday.

What we don’t want is to be checking our phones every five minutes because we’ve slipped up in Moldova, as our previously hidden love of all things Austria bubbles to the surface for the 7.45pm game between the Austrians and Israel, the team trying to catch us.

We don’t want to be facing the Danes at Hampden on Monday needing something from the game, at the same time as Israel are at home to the Faroe Islands.

Those occasions have, by and large, not gone well for us in the last 20 years.

It should be noted Moldova has taken one point from their eight qualifying games. Failing to beat them would be entirely and depressingly predictably, the Scottish way.

But we’re past that now, aren’t we?

Scotland captain Andy Robertson and his team-mates will always have our support but they should also have our trust too.

Who will step up in absence of suspended Dykes?

For those worried Lyndon Dykes is unavailable due to suspension on Friday, fear not. After all, Scotland have been anything but a one-man team.

Lyndon Dykes will miss the game in Moldova due to suspension.

Yes, he’s been the regular goalscorer in this campaign and the key figure in the matches last month against the Faroes and Israel, but Scotland’s success, when it has come, has always been built on the machine being greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s time for a new hero to step up in our hour of need.

We’re looking at you Che Adams, Ryan Christie, Ryan Fraser and Kevin Nisbet. At this point we’ll even take debutant Jacob Brown even though most of us have garnered what we know about him from YouTube in the last week.

The point is, this should be a new Scotland, a team not burdened by failures of the past but by the glory of ending our long wait to be at the big party.

Put your faith in them to be inspired to do it again and move a step closer to sampling the atmosphere of competing in the World Cup finals.

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