David Marshall hopes Scotland don’t live to regret what he regards as points dropped against Germany and Poland as he insisted they have to make the most of their home games in order to make the 2016 Euro finals.
A Thomas Muller double in Dortmund left the Scots empty-handed and they were forced to settle for a point in Warsaw as Arkadiusz Milik’s late strike earned Poland a point, results which have left them trailing the Republic of Ireland, whom they host tomorrow night, and Poland in qualifying Group D.
Marshall believes Scotland’s performances in both those away matches deserved greater reward than one solitary point, although a narrow 1-0 win over Georgia at Ibrox means their hopes of being in France the summer after next are still very much alive.
However, with two of their next three games against the Irish, the Cardiff City goalkeeper conceded he and his team-mates are now in a crucial period of their campaign, with the Republic, who snatched a last-gasp draw away to Germany, and the Poles three points ahead.
The former Celtic No.1 said: “Ireland have obviously got good points on the board early while we have not taken as many as we believe we could have done. We were left feeling disappointed by the final result in Germany, but we know the performance was there from us that night. It was a similar story in Poland where, again, we came away thinking the way we had played was worth more than the point we got.
“Now, the way the group is sitting, tomorrow night’s game has become massive for both countries. They want to build on their start, while we are desperate not to allow anyone to fly away from us.
“Qualification is still very hard to call but two of our next three games are against Ireland, so this is a very important period in the campaign. We are only looking as far as this match, however, as it is so important we make the most of our home games.
“They are going to be massive for us if we are to make it to the finals in France. We just hope we’re not going to look back on our games in Germany and Poland with regrets we left behind points which we felt we played well enough to take.”
As expected, the group minnows Gibraltar, playing in their first Uefa competition, have been defeated in all three of their opening games, conceding a massive 17 goals in the process. The newcomers visit Scotland in March and then host Gordon Strachan’s side in the final group game next October.
While Marshall expects World Cup holders and group favourites Germany to live up to their billing despite their indifferent start to the campaign, he believes it’s important the Scots keep their hopes alive until the bitter end.
He said: “We will be back playing at Hampden again after the turn of the year and we have to be prepared to make sure we do not come off the pitch with anything left to give. We all expect Germany to show why they are wold champions and group favourites. But it’s going to be so competitive for the automatic qualification places and the play-off spot.
“Like Germany, Georgia have not started the way they’d have hoped, but they are still a country who will have a say in the group. We play Gibraltar in our final game, but we have to make sure it is still in our own hands when it comes around.”
Such is the interest in tomorrow night’s match, Marshall claimed it overshadows Tuesday’s clash with England, again at Celtic Park which, he believes has been the right choice for these games.
He said: “The Ireland match is the only one people are talking about and it’s the one everyone wants tickets to see. With the Scotland fans behind us it doesn’t really matter where it is played, they will make sure we have the advantage.
“I appreciate that the likes of Martin O’Neill, Aiden McGeady and Robbie and Roy Keane have a big history connected to Celtic but this is an international match and I am sure, on the night, the Tartan Army will make it a real Scotland occasion.”