If Hampden Park had a roof, it would have blown off by fans’ cheers the moment when Chris Martin popped up to help bundle the ball into the back of the net off Martin Skrtel with just seconds left of the 90 minutes in Scotland’s World Cup qualifier match against Slovakia last night.
After Scotland’s 1-0 win, the World Cup dream is truly alive. The Tartan Terriers are just three games away from being at a World Cup for the first time in 20 years.
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Although there is still work to be done, the nation is getting fired up as they believe Gordon Strachan’s side will have a great chance of a playoff place if they defeat Slovenia on Sunday night.
Scotland currently sit sixth out of nine second-placed teams.
So what are some things we can learn from Scotland’s 1-0 win against Slovakia ahead of Sunday’s game against Slovenia?
Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney are Scotland’s defensive dream-team
The duo of Robertson and Tierney last night was something for Scotland to celebrate in itself. Together they were an indispensable influence that gave the team strength and vitality in defence.
Although they both favour the left back position, Robertson seems to be going from strength to strength and there will be no stopping him once he settles and builds up his skills in the Liverpool team.
But it was blending his continuous strengths with the ever-remarkable Tierney that made the defence. Tierney has an uncanny ability to adapt to a whole host of different positions for his club and country.
A Brendan Rodgers influence was palpable
No one can deny that having a whole host of Celtic players in the national team has given Scotland an edge, and a strong Brendan Rodgers’ influence in the Scotland team was palpable in the second half of the game.
It helps that the Celtic players constantly train together and know exactly how they and their teammate fit inside the squad which – with the national team not having trained together often enough – helped massively.
Both former and present Hoops stars love bringing the ball out back, which was evident from kick-off.
Even goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept looking for the pass as a first option, and often found Charlie Mulgrew as a willing recipient throughout the game.
Scott Brown’s absence was duly noted
At times the Scotland team were a little slow in getting the ball up the pitch – this is where Brown’s influence was sorely missed. Brown is a master at keeping the midfield moving, pressing the ball up field, taking risks and not backing down from challenges or a possible threat from a bigger player.
Leigh Griffiths, one of Celtic’s goalscoring heroes, spent some time at the top waiting for the ball to be sent his way. Being used to the constant, 100-miles-an-hour movement and pace of Celtic, Griffiths at times looked visibly frustrated at the slower pace of the national side. Urging his teammates to quicken up and get the ball up to him.
Scotland need to focus on strengthening their midfield and building their confidence to be more high pressing in the absence of Brown.
They lost some and gained some from their second half substitutions
Strachan made a series of surprise substitutions in the second half of the game. Some were baffling, whilst others worked.
At first, it seemed strange to bring on Ikechi Anya and James McArthur when in-from duo Callum McGregor and John McGinn were on the bench, but the gamble paid off as it was Anya’s teasing cross to Martin that ended up getting the ball in the back of the net.
Although it can be argued that bringing Martin on the pitch played a big part in getting the goal, they did lose some when they took James Forrest off.
Although Martin looked dangerous, substituting Forrest for him meant that Scotland lost some of its natural width, which could have been dangerous for the home side.
Scots should have more trust in Strachan
When the Scotland line-up was announced, you could almost hear a collective groan from fans, who were hoping for a better starting XI. Not to mention the collective confusion after some of the substitutions made, and the decision not to play McGregor or McGinn.
But perhaps Scots should have more faith and trust in the manager. In the last five World Cup Qualifiers, Scotland have won four and drawn one. So, clearly, the Scotland boss is doing something right.