Scotland

How far are Scotland from World Cup?

Billy Gilmour was one of several players who failed to add to Scotland’s lead against Moldova

After a chastening night in Copenhagen, the pang of defeat transferred into nervous tension in victory against Moldova at Hampden.

Lyndon Dykes returned Scotland to winning ways on Saturday, but it was far from an easy watch for the 40,000 souls packed into the national stadium.

A single goal did the job, but with some eye-catching results elsewhere, how are Scotland’s prospects looking of making it to the World Cup in Qatar next year?

Shooting for second?

Being outclassed by Denmark was a sore one but, in reality, Kasper Hjulmand’s side looked like they would be disappearing into the distance to claim first place in Group F and the only automatic qualifying spot anyway.

Despite a plucky effort by the Faroes on Saturday, the Danes eventually got a narrow win to keep their dominance in Group F rolling on.

Scotland’s battle is with Austria and Israel for second place, which would result in Steve Clarke’s side entering the play-offs. Draws against both those sides in March did not advance their cause, either.

Dykes’ goal earned Scotland a much-needed win, but their World Cup bid was also boosted by a surprising 5-2 win for Israel at home to second-seeds Austria.

It means at the halfway point, the Scots sit in third spot, a point above the Austrians and two adrift of Israel.

Group F table

What awaits in upcoming games?

Austria were also at the Euros this summer, going one better than Scotland by progressing from the group phase. Wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine bookended defeat by the Netherlands before the Austrians ran eventual champions Italy close in the last 16 with a 2-1 extra-time defeat.

Their 4-0 home drubbing by Denmark in March, coupled with Saturday’s hammering away to Israel, proves they have frailties, though.

However, if you are a cup-half-empty kind of person, you could say it just heightens their need for a big performance on Tuesday.

The narrative going into this weekend was two wins were required for Scotland. But, with Israel travelling to runaway leaders Denmark in midweek, a draw for Clarke’s lot may well be seen as enough to keep the Qatar play-off dream alive.

Scotland fixtures

How do the play-offs work?

The Nations League route to the play-offs, which helped send Clarke’s side to Euro 2020, is already closed this time after the Czech Republic won Scotland’s group.

So, only a second-placed finish will suffice. The 10 runners-up in World Cup qualifying progress to the play-offs, where the best six are seeded depending on their results in the group stage.

Two Nations League section winners, who finished third or below in World Cup qualifying, complete the line-up.

The 12 teams are then split into three play-off paths for one-off semi-finals and a final in March next year. The three path winners qualify for the showpiece in Qatar.

Simple, eh?

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