SCOTLAND need four wins from four games or they can forget all about reaching the World Cup in Russia next year. That is the stark reality of the task facing the Scotland players as they prefer for the first of four do or die matches against Lithuania on Friday evening.
And the point was re-enforced today by Assistant Scotland manager, the former Motherwell boss Mark McGhee. “We simply can’t afford anymore mistakes. That is the position we’re in and there’s no hiding from that.
“I’m not going to sit here and say,”‘Oh if they slip up and we do this or that we might have a chance’.
“I think we have to assume we have to win all four games, so we’ll roll our sleeves up starting on Friday night,” McGhee stated.
If Scotland get the win on Friday then they should be more than capable of taking care of little Malta on Monday night.
Then Scotland will go into the last two games at the start of October against Slovakia at Hampden on October 5 before travelling to Slovenia on October 8.
“When I was a club manager I always said that the fixtures can affect your season,” McGhee observed.
“I remember my first season back at Motherwell and I had the players in training on a Sunday before certain matches. If you win games the players will believe that’s the right thing to do.
“We were fortunate that while someone like Hibs were playing Celtic, Rangers and Hearts, we had all the teams we imagined we should be beating like Gretna, Inverness, St Mirren.
“We had a run were we racked up something like 13 points from 15. We probably weren’t playing any better than Hibs but we did have to face the opposition they were.
“What it did do, though, was give us a huge leg up and huge belief. So it can be the same here and we have got to belief that we can roll up the confidence.
“To have what on paper looks like the less difficult games at the end of the campaign is the right order. There is no doubt if we win these two games this weekend we will take some beating in the last couple.
“We will have to work out what is going to work out best against Lithuania – but then apply it with the same energy and enthusiasm we showed against England.
“Nothing changes in that sense. We set a standard against England and there is no excuse for us not to bring that same determination to any other performance, regardless of the tactics or the set-up.
“The starting point has to be a determination to work harder than the opposition.
Dropping two points against Lithuania at Hampden last October is clearly a major frustration for the Scotland management team.
“We picked a team that night and looked at three or four individuals who we hoped would win us the game. But those players in an attacking sense didn’t do terribly well.
“So that was the disappointing thing. It wasn’t so much about Lithuania that night, it was more about ourselves.
“I don’t think they’re better than they were a year ago – but I think we are.
“They are at home, they have lost a consecutive games so they will be playing for pride, so I don’t think we can under-estimate them. But I don’t think anything has changed to say they have got an awful lot better than they were a year ago.”