Monday, 1 August 2011

The Ghost's Of World Cups Past

Scotland V Croatia: 1 September 2001
While England had a horrible draw full of banana-skins & France got drawn with the defending Champions Spain, Scotland’s World Cup draw was full of the ghosts of World Cup’s past.

Scotland have been drawn against Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia & Wales.  All of whom Scotland have played prominent qualifiers against.  Both Croatia & Belgium finished ahead of Scotland during the qualifiers for the 2002 tournament.  Yet the results that hurt Scotland during that qualification process did not come from top seeds Croatia (1-1 in Zagreb in October 2000, and 0-0 at Hampden in September 2001), but from Belgium (who came from 2 down to draw 2-2 at Hampden in March 2001 - see below, and won 2-0 in Brussels in September 2001).

Serbia will be a tough side, having been to last years World Cup – they beat Germany but lost out to Ghana for a place in the last 16.  As Yugoslavia, they topped Scotland’s group in qualifying for Italia 90, drawing 1-1 at Hampden but winning 3-1 in Zagreb (ironically enough now the capital of Croatia).
Completing the 3 former Yugoslav nations in the group is Macedonia, who Scotland had trouble getting points from in the last qualifying group.  Macedonia’s win in the first game of qualifying for South Africa 2010 put Scotland in a hole that the eventually found that they could not escape from, even after a 2-0 win in the fixture at Hampden. One would hope that Craig Levine will have the nous not to agree to the away fixture being played at the height of Macedonian summer with a 3pm kick off.

All of which brings us to the most poignant member of Scotland’s group.   Scotland have played Wales twice in qualifying rounds.  In the qualifyers for the 1978 World Cup, Scotland beat Wales 1-0 at Hampden before wining 2-0 at Anfield (Jordan’s handball and all that).  Wales revenge came in the qualifiers for the 1986 tournament when they became the second team to win a World Cup qualifier at Hampden.  The return game at Ninian Park saw Scotland get an equaliser 10 minutes from time to take a play-off place.  The 1-1 draw was overshadowed by the collapse & subsequent death of the Scotland manager Jock Stein.

If Scotland’s draw is full of the ghosts of World Cup’s past, there was an element of that with England’s draw.  Both of the Euro 2012 hosts have been drawn with England, with most attention being on Poland and their famous world cup meetings in 1973 & in 1986.  Ukraine will also cause problems for England, as they did during qualifying for the last World Cup.  They avoided France, but got Montenegro an opponent in the current Euro 2012 qualifying round.  Moldova & San Marino complete the line up there.

Undoubtedly the headline part of the draw was the pairing of France & Spain in group I, with Belarus, Georgia & Finland making up the numbers from that group.  Bear in mind that only the group winners automatically qualify.  The runners up play off against each other for the final four places.  The first qualifying matches will be played from September 2012.

For the home nations, the route to Brazil 2014 has been set, none of the draw’s can be described as easy.  They are tricky, but not impossible.  Just remember those ghosts.

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