Both England and Scotland will take part in World Cup qualifying matches today as the Scots host Iceland and the English host Ukraine. Scotland’s woes and slight chances in Group Nine have been chronicled here over recent days. England are right out in front of Group Six with a chance to almost assure qualification with a victory over Ukraine.
Ukraine are in second place (on differential) in Group Six and can do themselves a world of good with a win at Wembley today. They are tied on seven points with Croatia who play Andorra today, which is all but a guaranteed win. So the Ukrainians need a result of some kind to keep pace and hope for a second place finish. The English press are of course acting like today’s match is do-or-die for their side. But really it is a somewhat insignificant match, though it is always nice to do well at home. There is plenty of wiggle room though with a five-point lead atop the group.
Scotland on the other hand are in a desperate position. Iceland and Scotland are tied on four points (with Iceland ahead on differential) as the lowest scoring second-place teams in all of Europe. If that remains the case, whoever finished second would not even make the qualifying playoff for second places teams (only the top eight go on). Additionally, Scotland have not fared well at home in the George Burley era. For whatever reason, the Scots have not been able to score goals at Hampden Park, traditionally a location of huge advantage. But after Saturday’s crushing defeat in Holland, perhaps fan support will be more skeptical in this match.
The Scots did defeat Iceland in Reykjavík last fall but continue to face huge injury problems and now the suspension of Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor after a rowdy ‘drinking session’ at Loch Lomond after the Holland defeat on Saturday. It may all be coming undone for Burley and the Scots so I really don’t expect to see much of a quality result today.
Scotland 1 – Iceland 1
England 2 – Ukraine 1