By Stewart Primrose
Scotland surely face a “must win” match on Wednesday as they take on Iceland after their humbling defeat by the Dutch at the weekend.
Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Amsterdam means the Scots have moved down to third place by virtue of goal difference.
Iceland, the team directly above them, come to Hampden Park this week, meaning it is even more important for manager George Burley to gain all three points.
A victory would propel them upwards and hope of reaching next years World Cup will be restored. Defeat, on the other hand, would severely weaken the nation’s chances of major tournament football for the first time in 12 years.
It would also heap pressure on Burley, who is starting to show signs of the strain he is under. Saturday’s game was seen as a write-off by the Scotland camp, but Burley seemed to concentrate on the referee’s performance rather than that of his own team, perhaps a signal that everything is not rosey for the former Hearts’ boss.
“There were one or two decisions that went against us. Allan McGregor was blocked for the corner and then we scored a perfectly good goal and no one can work out what the referee has given a free kick for.”
Results have not been good for Burley. Goals have been hard to come by and he only has one win to his name – against Iceland. Anything other than a win will intensify calls for his removal from office. It is doubtful this will happen, but another defeat could be the beginning of the end for a man who has not been fully accepted by fans and the media.
One defence for Burley’s performance so far in his short tenure is he has never had a full squad to choose from. From day one he has had constant call-offs, which remind you of the dark days of bungling Bertie Vogts. To take the Holland match for example, 6 definite starters were injured including Alan Hutton and James McFadden. When this happens to Scotland they are bound to struggle as there just is not the same strength or depth as in previous years. To be blunt Scotland need their first eleven out if they are to stand any chance against decent opposition.
Against Iceland, Hutton will be fit alongside defender, Stephen McManus. This will surely boost the backline, but it is still goals that the Scots lack. Two goals in their opening four games is just not qualification material. Kenny Miller has experience of scoring in the big games, but his old ways are returning after his miss on Saturday. He simply is not reliable enough to guarantee goals. With Kris Boyd already stating he will not play again under Burley, it is hard to see where the goals will come from.
The pressure is on Scotland to deliver. Even the opposition knows what it means.
“I’m sure there is more pressure on them than there is on us,” said Eidur Gudjohnsen, Iceland’s star player.
“Expectations of the Scottish team are much higher than of Iceland.”
A bad result will make the hysteria of 18 months ago in Paris seem a distant memory. Scotland simply must improve or the consequences will be hard but fair.