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European Qualifiers Group D

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European Qualifiers Group D

Hampden hope

In what has been a largely painful World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign, Scotland proved on Tuesday night that we can win against quality opposition.

Last Updated: 16/10/13 at 13:05 Post Comment

Strach attack: Scotland boss was rewarded for boldness against Croatia, says And

Strach attack: Scotland boss was rewarded for boldness against Croatia, says And

Our 2-0 victory over a strong Croatia side at Hampden certainly gave us exactly what we were looking for: hope for the future.

After winning a couple of games away from home to Croatia and Macedonia, it was important for Gordon Strachan to show a home crowd that we could compete and match up against technically superior players.

I thought Strachan was bold and adventurous in opting for two strikers in the shape of Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass.

Playing with a striking partnership meant Croatia immediately had an advantage in midfield and with Luka Modric always likely to be pulling the strings, we very quickly realised that by putting Croatia under pressure high up the pitch we could force them into the occasional mistake.

That's exactly what happened for the first goal as first Scott Brown, then Charlie Mulgrew forced their immediate opponent to play a quick pass.

Mulgrew's determination to then make the overlapping run for Naismith was great to see and yet again his cross on the run - a difficult skill - was perfect for Snodgrass to go and attack.

Confidence

Naturally we had to defend well as Croatia enjoyed a fair bit of possession and in Grant Hanley and Russell Martin, we have found a very decent centre-half partnership that goalkeeper Alan McGregor can have confidence in.

More than two years without a home win was beginning to wear us all down and this victory sent the Tartan Army away with some hope that we can make Hampden a difficult place for the away side to collect points.

The second goal gave us plenty of breathing space and in Ikechi Anya, we have discovered a Scot with pace to burn, a huge asset on the international stage.

His drive to continually get to the by-line is a godsend for strikers and attacking midfield players and he got his reward again last night by taking on right-back Domagoj Vida inside the box and drawing a late tackle from his more experienced opponent.

Pace will always frighten the very best of defenders and Anya looks as though he'll be a regular fixture in our strongest side.

Drained

We shouldn't forget, though, that all we've achieved in the campaign is to finish exactly where our seeding suggested, fourth in a group of six.

And as we look back on how the group took shape, our early draws at home to Serbia and Macedonia gave us very little to work on and drained our confidence, putting previous manager Craig Levein on the back foot.

Realistically, if we are to have any chance of qualifying for Euro 2016 in France, our home form has to improve greatly. In recent years we have beaten France and Holland, as well as drawing with Italy and Germany.

We now have to believe that whoever we draw when competitive international football returns in just under 12 months' time in the qualifying process for France 2016, that we can start well, earn notable victories and compete in a group from the very first match.

It is not beyond us to finally reach a major tournament in 2016 after what will have been an agonising 18-year wait.

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