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Scotland should have no fear for the World Cup play-off draw, says legend Willie Miller

Scotland team celebrates after Che Adams scores against Denmark in 2021.
Goal hero Che Adams celebrates after scoring to make it 2-0 Scotland against Denmark.

Composure, character and ability – Scotland and Aberdeen legend Willie Miller knows what it takes to progress from a World Cup play-off.

Gothenburg Great Miller, 66, was an integral part of the Scotland squad that overcame Australia 2-0 on aggregate in a two legged play-off to qualify for the 1986 World Cup.

Capped 65 times by his country, Miller insists Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad should have no fear going into the World Cup play-off draw as they have all the characteristics required to progress to the Qatar finals next year.

Scotland will discover their World Cup play-off opponents at the draw in Zurich on Friday (4pm).

A 2-0 defeat of Group F winners Denmark at Hampden confirmed Scotland would be seeded for the draw and receive a home clash in the one legged semi final tie.

Should the Scots progress to the one legged final home advantage will be decided by a draw.

Scotland’s John Souttar celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against Denmark at Hampden.

Miller said: “Composure,  character and ability – you have to put all that together to win a World Cup play-off.

“That’s what Steve Clarke will be looking for on this occasion – and they showed all that against Denmark.

“Securing a seeded spot for a home tie makes such a difference as Hampden can be so important for Scotland.

“Although Scotland will be hoping to get one of the lesser teams in the draw in a way it could be irrelevant.

“That’s because a repeat of the performance shown against Denmark against any team in the draw would give Scotland of progressing to the final.

“If they do get to the final and luck goes with Scotland and they come out of the draw with a home game for that I would back them to win it.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke
Scotland manager Steve Clarke celebrates the defeat of Denmark.

Scotland have nothing to fear in draw

Scotland shocked group winners Denmark, ranked 10th in the world, with a magnificent 2-0 win at Hampden.

Defender John Souttar and striker Che Adams netted the vital goals either side of half time against a Denmark side that arrived in Glasgow with a 100 per cent qualifying record having won all nine group games.

Scotland are in Pot 1 for the draw alongside Wales, Italy, Portugal, Russia and Sweden.

The six teams in Pot 2 are Austria, Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine.

The play-offs take place from March 24 to 29, 2022.

Miller insists Clarke’s squad have absolutely nothing to fear going into the draw after delivering one of the greatest ever performances by a Scotland side.

Aberdeen legend Willie Miller was capped 65 times by Scotland.

Scotland are bidding to qualify for back to back tournaments having ended a 23 year finals drought by reaching Euro 2020 this summer.

Miller believes the Scots, and the Tartan Army, can approach the draw and the play-offs in March not with hope but with expectation of success.

The Pittodrie great, who played in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, said: “It is one thing beating Moldova but a completely different prospect not just beating group winners Denmark but really putting them to the sword.

“Scotland were the better side by a country mile on the night against Denmark.

“It was probably one of the best performances a Scotland international team has ever produced.

“There was not a failure in the Scotland team in that defeat of Denmark.

“The quality of the first half performance in terms of possession, going forward and the link up play was something special.

“Although there wasn’t quite the same energy or intensity to get forward in the second half there was a real maturity from Scotland.

“It was a performance where Scotland controlled the game and they never looked like drawing or losing it.

“When you put the two 45s together it is just about the perfect 90 minutes.

“That’s brilliant for Steve Clarke, the players and the nation.

“It gives us all not so much hope, but expectation.”

World Cup play-off with Australia

The 12 teams in Friday’s draw will be split into three play-off paths.

Each of these will contain four teams who will play a one-legged semi-final with the winners then contesting a one-legged final.

The three winners of those finals will qualify for Qatar.

National manager Clarke led the Scots to the Euro 2020 finals by negotiating a play-off, beating Serbia in a penalty shoot-out in the final in Belgrade last November.

Frank McAvennie scores for Scotland against Australia in the World Cup play-off first leg at Hampden in 1985.

Miller experienced first hand the pressure of a play-off having had to negotiate a two-legged affair to qualify for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Australia had already won the Oceania qualifying group but were forced to play the runners-up in Europe qualifying Group Seven.

Scotland had tragically lost legendary manager Jock Stein when he passed away having suffered a heart attack late on in the 1-1 World Cup group draw with Wales in Cardiff that secured the play-off spot.

A nation was in mourning and Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson, Stein’s assistant with Scotland, took up the reins of the national squad.

Scotland defeated Australia 2-0 in the World Cup play-off first leg at Hampden in 1985.

Dominant first leg but close second

In the first leg against Australia on November 20, 1985 goals from Frank McAvennie and Davie Cooper secured a commanding 2-0 lead.

However in the return at Olympic Park, Melbourne on December 4 Australia were a different proposition in front of a 32,000 crowd.

Miller said: “We hammered Australia at Hampden. I actually had one cleared off the line believe it or not.

“It was a set piece and that was nearly my second goal for Scotland.

“We thought it was going to be easy going over to Australia for the return.

“However it was a really difficult game over there and we drew 0-0.

“You take nothing for granted in play-offs and you have to do what needs to be done.

Scotland 2 Australia 0 in the World Cup play-off first leg in 1985.

“We needed a certain character and determination to see it through.

“When you get to the stage of a play-off to reach a major competition you very rarely have a runaway performance against the opposition.

“It’s always going to be tight and fiercely contested and needing everything you have in the locker.

“Scotland will have to do the same in the play-off in March but they have shown they have what it takes with that defeat of Denmark.”