Scotland may feel as if they have little to play for ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifier against Croatia but a strong finish to Group A is crucial to avoid slipping further in the rankings for future tournaments.
Gordon Strachan’s side have already missed out on qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the eighth successive major tournament the Scots have failed to reach.
Scotland go into the clash in Zagreb on June 7 as underdogs in the football odds and with six uncapped players in the squad – Leigh Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong, Gordon Greer, Ryan Jack, Gary Mackay-Steven and Tony Watt.
Charlie Adam, Christophe Berra, George Boyd, Graham Dorrans and Ross McCormack did not make the 28-man party, while Darren Fletcher and Steven Fletcher are long-term absentees.
Scotland are five points behind third-placed Serbia with four games to play, four adrift of Wales and two below Macedonia.
A run of positive results would give Strachan’s men heart going into the next qualification campaign, although that will be tough with two games against Croatia, one at home to Belgium and a trip to Macedonia to come.
Strachan, who only took the reins in January, will be desperate to see signs of progress. He has earmarked James Forrest, Shaun Maloney and Robert Snodgrass as the players to lead the way in his inexperienced squad.
“There are players like that who can be heroes,” the Scotland coach said in April. Heroes are people who excite you, score goals, make you want to be a football player.”
Strachan has placed an emphasis on enjoyment, both for his players and the national side’s loyal supporters. Winning football matches would go a long way to putting smiles on faces.
There is talent in the Scotland set-up. It is up to Strachan to harness that quality and instill some much-needed confidence.