Gordon Strachan insists Scotland will be going all out for victory in tonight’s crucial Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Poland.
The Scots sit fourth in Group D and are likely to require a maximum haul of six points from their final two games against the Poles and away to Gibraltar on Sunday if they are to have a chance of qualification. A draw tonight and victory on Sunday would be enough to earn a play-off spot of third-place if Ireland were to lose at home to Germany tonight and then in Poland on Sunday.
While a point at Hampden tonight would leave the second-place Poles on the brink of qualification, Strachan insists there is no chance of his team settling for a draw. Referring to the recent Rugby World Cup match when England kicked a penalty towards touch in an attempt to beat Wales instead of taking the easier option and going for the posts to secure a draw, the national team manager is adamant that Scotland are of a mind to go for broke if this evening’s showdown is similarly delicately poised towards the end.
“There are so many permutations, so let’s go for the win,” he said. “Let’s go for the win. I’m only going for a win. My thought is to win the game. Look at Wales-England in the rugby. You’ve got to do these things sometimes.”
Strachan is optimistic about Scotland rescuing a campaign in which they have taken just one point from their last three games following a promising start. However, he admits his team will have to curb the threat of a player he described as the best in the world over the past month. Robert Lewandowski will run out at Hampden buoyed by having scored 12 goals in his last four games for Bayern Munich.
“Poland have a good side with a special player, that’s for sure,” said Strachan.
“It would be stupid of me to try to ignore it. You can say for the last five years that [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo have been the best players in the world. I think [Lewandowski] has been the best player in the world for the past month. And, if you are the world’s best player even for a month or a week, it’s some accolade.
“I think most of us would want to be the world’s best player for a week. He has been a top, top, top, top player for the last four years.
“He can create a goal out of nothing.
“We can’t, at this moment in time, but maybe this is the day someone pulls something out of the bag.”
Strachan will be without three players who would ordinarily have started, in the shape of the suspended James Morrison and injured pair Charlie Mulgrew and Ikechi Anya. However, with regards to team selection, most of the focus will be on the attacking department, where a clamour has been growing for in-form Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths to start instead of Steven Fletcher, who has netted just 12 goals for Sunderland and Scotland in the past two years.
The manager admitted he has been weighing up all the options available to him but was non-committal over who would start tonight.
“Listen, we have been throwing it about all over because we have not got somebody who goes, bang, you’re playing,” he said.
“You have to take everything into consideration. Do we think we are going to be encamped in their box? Do we think they are going to be up another 30 yards?
“Will it be a counter-attacking game where they come for you? You have to try and figure out how they are going to go as well.”
Strachan’s contract expires at the end of this campaign, but he refused to be drawn on his future.
“We’ll get the campaign out the way and have a look at it after that,” he said.
“We’ll have a debrief and see what’s what.”