Scotland’s fans were horrified last month when they learned that the national team could have fallen out of the World Cup qualifying race. But even while admitting that they needed to do more to qualify for Russia 2018, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan had a note of defiance, saying that “I knew if I went for what I would expect, I’d lose.”
The Scotland team spent most of Saturday’s game against Denmark battling against themselves, and the home side’s woeful attacking play was marred by some bad decisions by the referee. But a sweeping late goal from Kieran Tierney, followed by a David Marshall clincher after a breakaway, helped persuade the fans that their squad would go a long way to securing a spot in the next World Cup.
Before Scotland’s win, Strachan had endured criticism for sending out an experienced group of players, taking a country of around 4 million fans to a finals they had not qualified for for 58 years. His creative stars lacked the legs to take advantage of strong teams like Slovenia and Albania.
A defeat would have likely weakened Strachan’s position, but it was never a certainty. Saturday was expected to be a hard fight, against Denmark, whom Scotland had defeated by scoring only two goals in their last five meetings.
“We looked capable, but we lost a lot of ball,” said David Goodwillie after the match. “That was really surprising because we had a chance to play quick, quick football today. Denmark were really great defensively — they looked like a top team today. But I think we were more than capable of getting a result.”
Denmark, missing two key defenders, managed only one shot on target. But it was a sign of their own failure that their players allowed a team with a less than inspiring reputation to threaten in the first place. The loss means that the Swiss play England in Vienna on Tuesday to decide who joins Switzerland in qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.