Sunday, 7 February 2010

Mapping out the road to Euro 2012

On the face of it, this morning's draw for the qualifying groups for Euro 2012 gave with one hand and took away with the other.

On the minus side first, the top seeds in our Group will be Spain, the current holders of this particular crown who might be heading to Hampden as World Champions as well such is their standing in the game at the moment.  Our record against Spain is surprisingly mixed, having beaten them twice in competitive fixtures.  We beat them 4-2 in qualifying for the 1958 World Cup while more famously we won 3-1 at Hampden during qualifying for the Mexico 86 World Cup (featuring Dalgliesh's famous slalom run before smashing the ball into the top lefthand corner of the Spain goal).  We also face, remarkably for the fourth European Championships in a row, Lithuania.  Scotland have always found Lithuania a handful, particularly away from home.

On the plus side, although we do not have the best record against the Czech Republic, it looks as though Czech football is entering a fallow period considering their poor showing in World Cup qualification.  Whether this is true remains to be seen.  What is strange though is that the scheduled friendly in March against the Czech’s has not been cancelled.  The bottom seeds in Scotland’s group are Liechtenstein, who Scotland have never played.  Liechtenstein have played England a couple of times, and played a 10 at the back style not unlike San Marino, Andorra and the Faroe Islands.

In the other groups, England did not get their customary easy draw, as they were drawn in the same group as Wales, Bulgaria and Switzerland.  Northern Ireland were thrown in at the deep end with Serbia and Italy ahead of them in the seeding order, and Slovenia behind them.  The Republic of Ireland also have a tough draw, with Slovakia and Russia ahead of them in the seeding, and Macedonia in their group too.

Thankfully this is not a group of death that Scotland faced the last time in this tournament.  I would suspect that as the group unfolds Scotland will be vying with the Czech' Republic for the playoff place from the off.  What we need now is a good order of fixtures.

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