Scotland vs. Croatia: 6 Things We Learned
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Scotland overcame Croatia 2-0 at Hampden Park in their final FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifier on Tuesday night thanks to goals in each half from Norwich City's Robert Snodgrass and Everton's Steven Naismith, and in the process avoiding the ignominy of finishing bottom of Group A.
And these are the six things that we learned from the eye-catching encounter in Glasgow...
It’s Child’s Play
Snodgrass, the Norwich City midfield player, gave the Scots a deserved first-half lead with a fine header at the far post after a good interchange between Charlie Mulgrew and Naismith on the left-hand touchline, before the former sent an inch-perfect cross onto the Canaries man’s forehead.
And the 26-year-old could not have celebrated the birth of his child last week in better fashion...
End of the Road Already for Stimac?
Croatia head coach Igor Stimac went into Tuesday evening under big pressure having overseen a disappointing campaign on the road to next summer’s tournament in Brazil, his first in charge of his country after succeeding Slaven Bilic in the role in July 2012.
The Croats were ranked as the top seeds in Group A and yet had already lost both key head-to-head contests with rivals Belgium, meaning that their final match against Gordon Strachan’s men was academic as the visitors had already guaranteed a place in the playoffs.
However, their 2-0 loss in Glasgow will only have increased the pressure on the shoulders of the former Derby County centre-back going into next month’s two-legged showdown, with Croatia having now gone seven matches without a clean sheet.
There’s No Place Like Home
Before Tuesday night’s final home qualifier, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan had demanded a win in front of the Tartan Army for the first time in Group A, and the 56-year-old could not have asked for more from his charges who delivered on his call.
The former Manchester United midfield player was desperate to avoid the embarrassment of Scotland creating unwanted history by going an entire qualification campaign without enjoying a victory at home, and the hosts heeded their coach’s pre-match message by attacking right from the kick-off.
And if the Scots can play in the same adventurous fashion on the road to Euro 2016, then maybe a first appearance at the finals of a major tournament since France 98 is not so far-fetched after all, especially with the new man at the helm having now won three of his four qualifiers in charge of the national team.
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Why is it exactly that the Croats find it so damn hard to get the better of lowly Scotland?
The home side, way down at No. 63 in the current FIFA world rankings, have never lost a match against Croatia, the world's 10th-best team according to football’s governing body.
So, work that one out then...
Avoiding the Wooden Spoon
Tuesday night was vindication that Strachan’s Scotland are not the worst side in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group A, with the home side in danger of finishing bottom of their section for the first time ever in their history had results not gone their way in the final round of ties.
And in fairness to the Scots, it would have been an absolute travesty had Strachan and co. finished proceedings sixth in the table.
Victory in the Battle of Britain
When the draw was originally made for the 2014 qualifying campaign, all eyes were inevitably focussed on the battle of Britain that was set for Group A, especially given that Chris Coleman’s Welsh side were ranked 11 places higher than Scotland in the world standings.
However, after Tuesday’s night’s convincing 2-0 home win over second-place Croatia, coupled with Wales’s 1-1 draw in Belgium, the Scots finished the campaign in fourth place—one place and one point ahead of their archrivals.