Goals will be all-important against Group D minnows
Scotland left it very late to grab a morale-boosting victory over Northern Ireland at Hampden Park on Wednesday – central defender Christophe Berra popping up five minutes from time to head the game’s only goal.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been too surprised by the result as Northern Ireland have managed just six draws in their last 23 friendly internationals – they’ve lost the others. But what Gordon Strachan took from the result and performance is debatable.
The Irish, fielding a largely experimental side, never seriously troubled goalkeeper Craig Gordon nor half-time replacement Allan McGregor but still managed to keep the Scots at arm’s length for long periods within the 90 minutes. There was, however, an impressive performance from Watford’s Ikechi Anya while Steven Fletcher led the line well and Everton’s Steven Naismith was a threat in the second half.
It’s back to the serious business of racking up points in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign this weekend and everyone is expecting a goal rush against Group D minnows Gibraltar.
The newest nation playing under the UEFA banner, the Gibraltarians have already conceded 21 goals in their four qualifiers to date, including seven against both Poland and the Republic Of Ireland. They’ve yet to score a goal and have only won once in their short history.
Given the majority of their squad is made up of home-grown part-timers and the odd player from non-league football in England, it’s a surprise that they didn’t give coach Allen Bula more time to co-ordinate tactics and a long-term strategy but he’s already been given his marching orders and native Scot David Wilson will be in the dug-out at Hampden, hoping to mastermind a massive shock.
Opposite number Strachan believes that qualification is very much up for grabs in Group D with his team well placed after two victories. It may well come down to goal difference and he’ll be emphasizing that fact to his forwards before they face Gibraltar. Naismith, Scott Brown, Jordan Rhodes, James Forrest, James Morrison and Andrew Robertson should all return to the starting line-up and we are offering 8/13 in the Totals market against Over 4.5 total goals. Rhodes is 3/1 to be the first goalscorer.
The match kicks off at 5.00pm on Sunday, March 29 at Hampden Park.