Scotland must be “patient” and “incredibly brave” if they are to take anything from tonight’s meeting with Germany and prevent their hopes of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship being fatally trampled by the rejuvenated world champions, according to Gordon Strachan.
The Scotland manager is ready to make changes to the side that failed to register a shot on target in the 1-0 defeat in Georgia, acknowledging their attacking threat must improve significantly if they are to challenge the Germans.
Scotland entered this international window amid a surge of optimism that automatic qualification could be theirs but now face the stern reality that defeat to Germany would push even third place and a play-off place all but out of reach. To make the task even tougher, Germany’s stuttering form of last year, that allowed Ireland and Poland to take key points, appears a thing of the past. Joachim Löw’s side were not far off their eye-catching best in Friday’s 3-1 defeat of Poland. Manuel Neuer yesterday compared Scotland to a boxer who has taken a hit but will fight back; unfortunately for Scotland the opponent they have to recover against is dancing round the ring like Sugar Ray Robinson in the mood.
“Germany are starting to roll,” accepted Strachan. “We will need to be patient and incredibly brave when we get the ball back. At times when you try to be brave and pass through teams you will lose the ball but we have to not let that affect us because the rewards of breaking through are well worth it.”
Scotland’s defeat in Georgia, their first since losing in Germany on the opening night of qualification, was crushing not just for the outcome but also its manner. There was a timidity and startling lack of invention. Crossing was poor, set-pieces ineffective, possession was cheaply squandered and the attacking threat was near zero. Strachan needs to right that on-field wrong.
“Players are used to it. They are footballers, and they have never gone through their careers and it’s just been easy,” he said. “They have been getting knock-backs since they were 15 and that is why they are here. Everybody has trained well and it shows that they are over their disappointment.”
Scotland failed to muster a shot on target in Tblisi and Strachan is set alter his line-up tonight. “The first two-thirds were good and the last third wasn’t,” he said. “The big difference in international football is the last third.”
Leigh Griffiths, scorer of eight goals for Celtic this season but none yet for Scotland, is the popular choice to replace Steven Fletcher, although Derby’s Chris Martin or Steven Naismith may better suit the role Strachan likes his frontman to play. James McArthur, bright this season for Crystal Palace, is a midfield option in place of James Morrison, while Matt Ritchie, also fresh from a promising beginning in the Premier League, is an option on the right flank.Reuse content