Stuart McCall today insisted it wouldn’t be a catastrophe if Scotland fail to beat the Republic of Ireland in Friday night’s crunch Euro qualifying match at Celtic Park – but admitted it was one Gordon Strachan’s side cannot afford to lose.
However, the Scotland coach conceded he’d gladly put victory ahead of an eye-pleasing performance against a side which shocked World Cup holders and Group D favourites Germany with a last-ditch equaliser in Gelsenkirchen.
While McCall believes Germany will ultimately live up to their billing, he revealed the thrills and spills of this particular qualifying group has even caught the imagination of some south of the border where England have already all but clinched their place in the finals.
Thanks to a shock win over the Germans, Poland top the group with seven points after three games – with only goal difference separating them from the Irish – while Scotland and Germany sit on four points with Georgia just one further behind.
McCall said: “The boys need to realise that the game doesn’t have to be won in the first five minutes. We have seen with Ireland in recent games that games can be won and drawn late on. They scored the winner in the last minute against Georgia and they scored an equaliser in the last minute against Germany.
“No matter how the game is going, we need the fans behind us from the first minute to the last minute. We have got two really equal sides and both sides are, to use an expression of Gordon’s, feeling good about themselves. They have both put in good levels of performance in recent times.
“I don’t think for one minute it’s a must-win game. It is a must-not-lose game.
“The way we have been playing since Gordon took over we have been confident and have probably won as many at home as away from home.
“Obviously the crowd will be an added bonus. But we are experienced lads. When we go to Ireland in June we will have just the same chance of winning there as we do here. So I don’t think it is a must-win game. If we come out of the game and we have got a draw it wouldn’t be doom and gloom by any means. We are still more than capable of going and getting a result in Ireland.
“It is a great group. Everybody expected Germany to be up and away. But Poland had a great result, Ireland had a good result, and we have had a good result. I have been down in England for a couple of days and they don’t have a lot to talk about in their group because it is done and dusted.
“So there is a lot of interest even south of the border in this game. All the other international teams are doing well, Northern Ireland and Wales, so it is good at the moment.
“As much as we will be going all out to play well and win, on Friday night we would take a sub-standard performance and a win. Winning is what we are after. But, as I say, it is not great catastrophe if we come off the park and have not got beaten.
“In fairness to Germany, they have had a lot of key players missing. I am sure they will come back into the campaign. I know they have had a couple of players who have retired.
“I am sure that in six or 12 months’ time, when they get their strongest team out there, we will see them top of the group. So it looks as if it’s going to be between ourselves, Poland and Ireland for second spot. Who knows about Georgia?
“We are in about Germany just now. We are all fighting for it. But I would expect in the fullness of time, with Germany getting the quality of players they have been missing back, them to get stronger.
“If you speak to Germany, Ireland or Scotland, they all have a good feeling about the national team just now.”