Publicans, prostitutes, and petty criminals across South Africa were glued to their TV screens in early June hoping for a set of results that would propel the Tartan Army south of the Equator for only the second time in history (do we all remember how good the first trip was?). They were subsequently delighted by a perfect set of outcomes that maintains Scotland’s triumphant second-place spot and brings the thirsty Scottish masses one step closer to being relieved of sobriety and cash on a daily basis for couple of weeks, in return for drink and either a mugging or a shag.
Holland sealed their spot, and a return to one of the few countries that still has people who speak with guttural sounds and long vowels, with an away win over Iceland. Better for Scotland, on the same day the Macedonians tied 0-0 with the Norwegians – both our challengers for second place taking points off each other. Elsewhere, looking across the vital competition for not-the-worst-runner-up (see http://tinyurl.com/ddppd5), Croatia and Ukraine also drew, although an Irish loss to Bulgaria would have helped Scotland (they drew).
That midweek, the hope was for the nothing-to-play-for-now Heineken-drinkers to beat the Norwegians in Rotterdam’s intimidating De Kuip – something they duly achieved (thank you, you tulip-munching vice legalisers); while an extra bonus would have seen Macedonia dropping points to the now-almost-as-poor-as-the-Macedonians Iceland. Alas, nothing is going in favour of our volcanic island friends these days, so Macedonia are now level on points with Scotland having played a game more. Iceland? Well, at least they have Sigur Ros for those long summer nights.
So what it boils down to is this:
- Macedonia have to visit Glasgow and Oslo. If we beat them, we are highly likely of second place (especially if we get at least a point in Oslo).
- Norway have to play Scotland and Macedonia at home, and Iceland away. I predict they’ll drop points and will be spending June 2010 in front of expensive flat-screen TVs paid for by oil money that they didn’t give to their larger neighbour country for nothing in return.
- If we beat Norway, beat Macedonia, and get a draw with Holland we should have enough points to be confident of reaching the playoffs. Anything less and we might finish second but could finish as the worst runner-up. I’ll be keeping my eye on that wikipedia page, for sure.
And once all this is over, and we do finish in the top 8 runners-up, FIFA will put the fix in and we’ll be drawn against Russia, France, or Argentina (What? You don’t think FIFA will change the rules when it looks like the Argies won’t make it?).
In other news: Japan have qualified, which means our friendly against them is confirmed for October 10, but the location won’t be fixed until sometime in July, according to the SFA. I have worked in Japan; there is no point raging against the machine. It’ll happen when it happens, and when it does, I’ll tell you about that time I was there, when the Scots, went up, to lift the Kirin Cup…