So Scotland and Wales will not be at the World Cup next year. Both teams had it in their own hands to at least secure a play-off place and keep hopes alive of a trip Russia; however they failed in their crunch clashes. Even I feel a bit harsh to mention the word fail, but being brutal that is exactly how it was as both teams, should really be readying themselves for a playoff in November instead of kicking their heels, watching from afar; thinking what could have been.
SCOTLAND THE NOT SO BRAVE
After Scotland lost to England 3-0 at Wembley last November they were second bottom in the group after an awful start to the campaign which included a 1-1 home draw against Lithuania and qualification looked over. However a run of 4 wins in 5 gave them the opportunity to go to Slovenia where a win would mean a playoff place would be claimed. But after taking the lead they gave away two soft goals and despite a late Robert Snodgrass equaliser in Ljubljana, it was not enough, yet more gallant failure for the Scots. Manager Gordon Strachan blamed their lack of physique and size as the reason for non-qualification, a poor excuse in my opinion, one that he had up his sleeve for such just a situation.
TOGETHER NOT STRONGER
After their Euro 2016 exploits (a fantastic run took them all the way to the semi-finals) the mood was positive in the Welsh camp and hopes were high that they could qualify for a first World Cup since 1958. As top seeds in the group they were favourites and the minimum requirement was at least a playoff place via second spot. A 4-0 opening win against Moldova boded well, but then 5 straight draws (in which they led in all but one of them) hampered progress and essentially ended any opportunity of topping the group as they gave themselves too much to do. A run of three straight victories put second place and a playoff spot in their own hands, however defeat to the Republic of Ireland at home and probably significantly without Gareth Bale, in their final group match meant they would not be heading to Russia next summer.
Both Scotland and Wales ended their qualifying campaigns relatively strongly (Scotland were unbeaten in six and Wales won three of their final four matches) but their starts were poor and both gave themselves too much to do and neither side managed to get the result required in their final group games. On the Scottish side team selections at crucial times by manager Gordon Strachan were the issue according to fans, as for the Welsh, no Bale does mean no cutting edge when it really matters. They massively missed the Real Madrid forward against an obdurate and drilled Irish side, but it is a squad game and they were just not good enough over the qualifying campaign as a whole.
CHANGES AT THE TOP?
I imagine Chris Coleman will likely call it quits and if he does it will be with his head held high and I doubt he will be short of offers. He had a real struggle when he took over in difficult circumstances, but he got to grips with the job and gave the whole country the ride of their lives in qualifying for Euro 2016 and the run they went on in the tournament itself. As for Strachan it is probably a trickier situation. He did well in his last six games but has now overseen two failed qualifying campaigns and the fans have shown displeasure at his team selections and in game tactics. Some will back ‘wee’ Gordon more so because there is no outstanding candidate to take over. In my opinion I think there will be changes and by their next set of competitive matches, both sides will have a new man in charge.
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