Christophe Berra: Scotland peaking at just the right time

Christophe Berra and Scotland are in confident mood for tonight
Christophe Berra and Scotland are in confident mood for tonight
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Christophe Berra believes Scotland are hitting peak form at just the right time as Gordon Strachan’s squad aim to wrap up their World Cup qualifying campaign with victories over Slovakia and Slovenia.

A maximum six points would see the Scots take second place in Group F behind England and with it a play-off spot for the prize of a place in next summer’s finals in Russia.

It’s a scenario which looked all but impossible only a year ago as Slovakia, tonight’s opponents at Hampden, crushed Scotland 3-0, Strachan’s players suffering a similar result against England at Wembley in their next match to leave them with only four points from their opening four games.

However, ten points from their last four matches – gained through wins over Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta along with a drama-laden 2-2 draw with England – have put Scotland’s destiny back into their own hands, an opportunity which the Hearts skipper insisted they are not going to let slip. Berra did, though, admit Slovakia will prove formidable opponents as they and Slovenia also aim to clinch that all-important second place.

The 32-year-old defender said: “Hopefully, we are peaking at the right time. Only time will tell, but this is the business-end and we have managed to get two wins against stuffy opponents, especially Lithuania away which in recent history has never been an easy game for us.

“So to win over there so easily has given us confidence. Slovakia have been to major tournaments recently and have top players so we are going to have to be right on it. But we’ve done well in big games at Hampden and hopefully we can raise our game again. It’s all about getting the three points, whether we pass the ball well and score great goals or do it with our backs to the wall.”

Berra will be hoping, along with his fellow defenders, to play their part by keeping a third consecutive clean sheet, something Scotland haven’t achieved for 20 years.

He said: “As a team in the last two games we have performed well, scored goals and kept the ball out of our net. Hopefully, we can do the same again tonight. It’s in our hands if we take six points out of six. It wouldn’t be job done, but we’d be in the play-offs which is what we set out to do.”