GORDON McQUEEN (Won 30 caps. Now a summariser for STV)
RANGERS' European campaign has tended to overshadow Scotland this season. You only have to look at the attendances to see that there doesn't seem to be the same passion among the supporters for the national team. Maybe they're a bit blase after qualifying for so many World Cups.
Years ago there used to be great debates about who should play. Now there are absolutely no grumbles whenever the squad gets announced. Maybe it means that we do not have enough good players. Well, it does mean that. I don't think Scotland will qualify for the next one because there are teams in the section that are better.
The job is so difficult for Andy Roxburgh it's ridiculous. There doesn't seem to be the same urgency from players to play for Scotland now, but at the same time the demands on the top players are such that quite often they're just not fit for midweek games. I am almost certain that Roxburgh has never been able to field what he would consider his strongest side.
You can never comfortably predict the outcome with Scotland playing away. Obviously I'd love to see them get a result, but unless certain players are there I don't fancy them. I'm disappointed that one or two younger players, like Eoin Jess and Duncan Ferguson, are not available. They need to pick up a point in Portugal or that's definitely it.
RCS v WALES
ROBBIE JAMES (Won 47 caps. Now plays for Cardiff City)
AFTER their initial 5-1 defeat in Romania I think they have picked up tremendously. They've had a lot of time together since then, so they are playing as a team.
Going away to the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks is a different story altogether from the Arms Park. You always find when you go away that it's hard to play because our game is based on power and running: we fly into tackles and we slide-tackle, which they don't really like abroad.
I think they have got to go with a positive attitude and go looking for a win. They are going to have to bed themselves in for the first 15 to 20 minutes and see what RCS are going to throw at them. One-nil to Wales will be good enough. It's going to be hard work but I'm sure that Terry Yorath and all the players believe they can get there.
I played with Terry at Swansea and he just wants people to pass the ball, create chances and entertain. He's got the players to do it. He has put Mark Hughes into midfield, and the Belgium game was possibly one of his best for Wales. It's only good for Wales that Giggs is playing. He's going to create things for you, he knows where the goal is and he helps in defence. For a player as young as he is he reads the game so well.
Obviously I'm going to say that they will qualify, but it is a great shame that they started so badly.
REP OF IRELAND v DENMARK
MARK LAWRENSON (Won 38 caps. Now a summariser for Radio 5)
IN MY day we had so many good players, but we were slightly naive and we'd just go out and play. Consequently we could beat anybody at home but away from home when we needed more organisation and more doggedness we never really had it. What the Republic of Ireland now have is that they are very well organised, they play to a system that everybody is comfortable with. With the exception of three or four players the team virtually picks itself. It's really akin to a club spirit, full of banter but full of hard work and determination.
The midfield is probably as good as any in Europe, and the forwards work ever so hard in putting people under pressure. Internationals are used to having time on the ball but as soon as the goalkeeper gets it they are all under pressure. Not many teams can cope with it.
I cannot see Ireland not qualifying. Against Denmark I don't think a draw would be the worst result. The key is stopping Brian Laudrup. Nearly 60 per cent of any attacking moves come through him. I don't think anybody will be told specifically to mark him - if he does get it there will be at least one, maybe two Irish players round him straightaway.
I would always tip Ireland to win at home. The Danes are a counter-attacking team anyway. I don't think that the Danish defence will be able to cope with the pressure over 90 minutes.
SPAIN v NORTHERN IRELAND
MARTIN O'NEILL (Won 64 caps. Now manages Wycombe Wanderers)
QUALIFYING in 1986 was Herculean by any stretch of the imagination. This would be astronomical. Northern Ireland are always going to find it difficult to get a bunch of good players at the right moment to warrant a World Cup examination.
The 1982 team had a fair bunch of people of the right age; by '86 a lot of then were over the hill. It'll come round again. I think Billy Bingham would be the first to accept the fact that if you don'thave one or two close-to-world-class players, and Northern Ireland have had a few over the last two decades, there's not a phenomenal amount you can do about it.
They dropped points early in the campaign at home to the lesser teams, and lost at home to Denmark, which was a big result. They had to get something out of the game at Lansdowne Road, they failed and now have a mountain to climb. They cannot afford to lose good players who are in a little bit of form, and in the coming games Steve Morrow will be missed. They will go into the match in Spain with a nothing-to-lose attitude, and sometimes that can be dangerous for the host team. Spain have got to win it.
Hand on heart, I would say that a blind man could tell you that it is going to be a hard, hard game for Northern Ireland, and there will be more hope than expectation that they will get something out of the match.Reuse content