Can the Tartan Army get off to a strong start in qualification and conquer their often troublesome away form or will the freezing cold, hostile conditions provide an early stumbling block?
Is it finally time to qualify?
Scotland haven’t qualified for a major tournament since 1998 and it’s very much felt like a country beginning to lose hope on the international front, several managers have tried and failed to galvanize the players and take the country up a gear. It is now down to Alex McLeish to deliver the goods. This current crop of Scotland players may well be the best they’ve had for a long time, but will a real squad materialize or will it be yet another glorious failure?
Currently, the squad are in a strong position in terms of qualification. Wins in the nations league have seen Scotland promoted in to League B, this means they are guaranteed a play-off place for the Euros. But they need to avoid leaving it as a last resort, as history would suggest that Scotland don’t do well in those situations.
Belgium and Russia will be the toughest opponents the Scots will come up against. Russia had a decent World Cup but prior to that had lost their last nine international matches, they’re vulnerable, and there’s no reason why Scotland can’t target a second place finish in the group. San Marino and Cyprus are next up after the trip to Kazakhstan and many Scotland fans will be expecting between seven and nine points on the board by the time they travel to Belgium in June.
Scotland need to get off to a strong start, they’re the favourites for this clash at 1.73, with the hosts out at 4.0.
A tough trip
Scotland will play in the same stadium where Celtic fell to a 4-3 defeat in August of 2017, so several of the team will be familiar with the tough environment. Temperatures in Kazakhstan are close to freezing and the crowd will make for a very intimidating atmosphere.
This will be the hosts first competitive match under manager Michal Bilek, who was appointed in January this year. They’ve played just one match in that time, a 1-0 win over Moldova got the Czech boss off to a perfect start. The manager has been working on keeping the team more resolute at the back and the clean sheet against Moldova showed that work is paying off, but the bigger tests are yet to come.
Kazakhstan’s issue is their lack of goals, no player in the entire squad has more than five international goals. Their hope lies with a new player to the international scene; Oralkhan Omirtayev has two goals in two games. At just 20 he’s one of the younger members of an experienced squad, but he has plenty of experience at club level and if they can stay strong in defence he’ll be the one tasked with pinching a goal to get a result. This could be a very tight encounter, under 2.5 goals could be a good choice at a price of 1.5.
Some selection headaches
Andy Robertson is the most notable absentee from the Scotland squad, he is arguably their most influential player, his tireless running and superb delivery will be a big miss. There’s real competition up front as Oliver McBurnie fights for a starting place against a potential debutant: Mark McNulty. The striker has been excellent since moving on loan to Hibs but I can see him being used later on off the bench to stretch Kazakhstan as they tire. McBurnie is a threat in all areas of attack; clinical in front of goal and strong in the air, he will be a real handful for a defence that is still learning and growing under their new manager. McBurnie is the shortest price for a goal along with McNulty at 2.7 anytime and 5.5 first.
Under 2.5 goals @ 1.5
Scotland draw no bet @ 1.3
Oliver McBurnie to score anytime @ 2.7