Strachan seeks Scottish focus for decisive Polish battle in Glasgow
Having previously looked capable of achieving a place in France for next summer’s Euro 2016 finals, Scotland are now on the verge of having their national hopes dashed, but determined boss Gordon Strachan has called for complete focus as Poland prepare to visit Hampden Park.
The Scots have fallen to fourth place in Group D, four points behind Celtic rivals Republic of Ireland, after a shocking defeat to Georgia last time out, a result which could ultimately prove fatal in their wishful attempts to qualify.
Strachan’s men have been a constant menace to Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green, first overcoming them on home soil before securing a draw in Dublin, but it’s been clashes with the group giants which have been their downfall, and they are 19/10 with Coral to overcome Poland.
World Cup holders Germany toppled the Scots twice, while Poland could only draw with them on their home patch, but a defeat to Georgia sees their fate now hanging desperately in the balance, and Strachan has demanded his players overcome high emotions.
“Emotional players can cause you bother and until now and I am sure it will continue, we have been focused rather than emotional,” said Strachan. “We can only deal with the games we are involved in. The first one against Poland is going to be a huge game.”
The damaging double defeats to Germany and Georgia have left Scotland striving for the play-off position which Ireland currently hold, as they sit six points adrift of Poland and eight off last summer’s World Cup winners.
“We are still in there. We can’t deal with what happens elsewhere,” continued Strachan. “It is going to be a great occasion, a fantastic occasion, a pressurised occasion but we like that as footballers.
“The whole nation was disappointed (after last two results), which is understandable. We are up for it again, that is the good thing about us.”
There is hope for the Scots, though, with their defiant performance in the defeat to Germany definitely an outing that can be built upon, plus they have a possible mental edge, having beaten Poland last year in a friendly meeting.
Seven months later at the same venue in Warsaw where that victory took place, Strachan will lead his nation out hoping for a solid result which can keep hopes alive, though Poland are 13/8 to triumph with Europe’s finest finisher in their ranks.
Bayern Munich marksman Robert Lewandowski is out to help fire his Polish teammates to France, coming into the clash on the back of a record-breaking 12 strikes in his previous four club outings, and it could be this Bundesliga hitman that downs Scotland’s dreams.
“They are a good side, they have improved immensely since we played them in a friendly two years ago,” added Strachan. “We know he’s [Lewandowski] there, but we managed to score two against them over there with him in the team.
“We don’t have a world class player but we have a great bunch of lads and we know we have to work as a group.”
A loss to Poland in front of their rapturous home fans would see them lose any chance of qualifying for France, meaning the final fixture trip to face group whipping boys Gibraltar would become a cruel reminder of what could have been.
Strachan’s current contract with the national side is set to expire at the end of this campaign, but the former Celtic boss claimed he isn’t looking beyond these final two qualifying match-ups.
“I have never thought about my future wherever I have been in football,” he declared. “I just continue and see where I end up. It’s good fun, you know.
“We will speak about it once it (the campaign) is out of the way. The games are far more important than me.
“I love football and I love what I am doing now, that is for sure. But as I say we will talk about it when we finish this campaign and hopefully it has another few months to run now.”
Whether Strachan bows out after an unsuccessful qualifying quest or somehow oversees a remarkable escape to France depends on his Scottish side’s showing on home soil this week, but Poland will arrive ready to show no mercy to their opposition.