FYR Macedonia vs. Scotland
The Anchor Man previews Saturday's World Cup qualifying clash.
After failing so narrowly to qualify for the European Championships, Scotland will be looking to make amends as they kick-off their World Cup qualification campaign in Macedonia this weekend.
Despite there being more than 40 places separating the sides in Fifa’s world rankings there looks very little between the two on the field at the moment. George Burley has had the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of Walter Smith and Alex McLeish and is yet to convince he can take the Scots further forward.
With three friendlies under his belt Burley is still chasing that elusive first victory at international level with the latest being a disappointing 0-0 draw against ten man Northern Ireland last month. It could have been far worse with David Healy missing a penalty for the Irish side. That result and another draw with Croatia sandwiched a defeat to the Czech Republic and their current position of 16th in the rankings looks to greatly flatter them.
Burley retains the nucleus of the squad that was so successful under Smith and McLeish and banished the memories of the awful Berti Vogts reign. The loss of Barry Ferguson through injury is a big blow however and that really leaves just Darren Fletcher with any significant international experience to anchor the midfield.
Scotland do have players with quality that can make the difference. Craig Gordon has proven himself a fine stopper while James McFadden and Kenny Miller upfront both have decent strike rates at this level, averaging roughly a goal every three games apiece and the duo have both started the season in good form for their respective clubs.
Macedonia looks a side on the up. They have proven themselves difficult to beat recently, especially at home where they haven’t lost since June 2007 and in that time defeated the mighty Croatia. England also only managed one goal in 180 minutes of football against them in that qualification campaign in which the Eastern Europeans finished with a respectable 14 points and zero goal difference.
With Holland looking certainties for the group the race for second spot is going to be tight and this is the sort of game Scotland need to be winning to have a chance of making the playoffs. But they will not have things their own way in Skopje and an inexperienced Scottish midfield could struggle to get a grip on the game. In what is almost certainly going to be a low scoring affair, the draw looks value at 3.25.
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