Scotland’s World Cup qualifying picture could look very different come October, according to assistant boss Mark McGhee.
Gordon Strachan’s right-hand man says the team are still hurting from conceding a last-gasp Harry Kane equaliser in the pulsating 2-2 draw against England at Hampden earlier this month, but believes it could end up being the point which earns them second spot in Group F.
The draw left Scotland in fourth place in the pool, four points behind second-placed Slovakia, three adrift of Slovenia and realistically needing to win all four of their remaining games to secure a play-off spot for the 2018 World Cup.
But, with games away to Lithuania and at home to Malta to come at the start of September, while Slovakia and Slovenia meet each other next time and still both have to play away to England, McGhee reckons Scotland’s chances of reaching Russia could look significantly brighter by the end of the summer.
“At the moment we’re still getting over those last couple of minutes (against England),” McGhee told Press Association Sport.
“We’re still questioning ourselves – was there anything that we could have done in the time between us scoring and them equalising to avoid it? You examine yourself before you start looking anywhere else. I think because of the importance of it, we’re still in that stage.
“But ultimately it could be the point that sees us into second spot. I think we have to win the remaining games to be sure of that, but that point could be very, very important.
“We need England now to go and beat everyone and of course we need to do the job ourselves.”
Scotland’s final two games are at home to Slovakia, who beat Strachan’s men 3-0 last year, and away to Slovenia in October, by which time all three countries could be neck and neck. And the Scots would have the momentum.
“The first two games (against Lithuania and Malta) would be the first two you’d choose to play,” McGhee said. “Those are two that we absolutely should and must win.
“I think the confidence we could gain going into the last two games, given we would have another six points in the bag, and somewhere along the line something would have changed with regards to Slovakia’s and Slovenia’s results, if we can get six points then it will look an awful lot different.
“The first thing we have to deal with is Lithuania and Malta and, if we can deal with Lithuania first, Malta at home is a game we would have no excuse not to win, so that would set us up nicely for the other two.
“We haven’t done anything yet – in fact we’re almost out of it – so we’ve got to claw ourselves back into it, but we do have the opportunity and I believe we have the ability to do that.”
:: Mark McGhee was speaking at the McDonald’s & Scottish FA Community Football Day in Giffnock, encouraging youngsters to play football at a grassroots level and celebrating Quality Mark clubs in the area. For more information visit http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/betterplay