Euro 2016 Qualifiers: Weighing Up Scotland's Opponents
After Scotland were drawn with Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar in Group D of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Gordon Strachan insisted, as reported by Sky Sports, that the group was anything but boring:
There are some groups you might call mundane but we're definitely in an exciting group that should excite everybody.
But we're competitive as well... we've got a hard group. If we can keep all of our players fit then we'll have a chance. The Republic [of Ireland] and Poland will be thinking the same, and Georgia will be thinking the same.
If we play to the level we can play, and where we want to go to, we can definitely qualify.
Few would disagree. Two wins over Croatia at the tail end of the last qualification campaign proved that the Scots, under Strachan, are a different side mentally to what they were under Craig Levein.
Yet, it won't be easy—it rarely is when Scotland are concerned.
The Germans represent a class or two above everyone else in the group while only Gibraltar can be considered as true "minnows."
Here, we take a look at Scotland's Group D opponents and what Strachan's side can expect in facing them over the next year and a half.
Current World Ranking: 2
Almost every football fan knows beyond any reasonable doubt that Germany will top this group.
Joachim Loew's side bring a dominant, attractive brand of football to the table, regardless of which formation the 54-year-old chooses to go with.
In the last two qualification campaigns—Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup respectively—Germany have won 19 of 20 matches, drawing the other.
Led by Bayern captain Philipp Lahm, it is highly unlikely any team in the group will take points off the sharp passing unit of the Germans.
Republic of Ireland
Current World Ranking: 67
As well as being the clash which could make or break Scotland's chances of reaching France in 2016, this doubleheader has an extra dimension.
Ireland duo Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane may very well meet Strachan at the home of the club they all have in common: Celtic Park.
It makes for an interesting narrative off the park, and the clash on it will no doubt be a tasty affair.
Both sides are similar in their approach, and with not much to choose between them in terms of personnel, it could come down to simply which side puts on their best performance on each occasion.
Current World Ranking: 70
While their current world ranking of 70th suggests Scotland, 34th at the time of writing, should beat Poland, things are rarely so simple.
Any team with the potent attacking threat of Bayern-bound Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski will present a difficult challenge to Strachan's side.
Add in his Dortmund team-mates Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski, as well as goalkeeping talents Wojciech Szczesny and former Celtic stopper Artur Boruc, and writing off the Poles becomes a dangerous attitude to have.
Still, beyond the Dortmund triumvirate, the side has little quality of note which is surely an encouraging sign for the Scots. Wednesday's friendly between the two sides could yet prove a useful testing ground.
Current World Ranking: 103
It's difficult to know what to make of Georgia.
Temuri Ketsbaia's side didn't even come close to qualifying for this year's World Cup, yet it held France to a 0-0 draw at home and was defeated by Spain only due to a late Roberto Soldado strike.
The last time the sides met was back in October 2007. Alex McLeish's Scotland were on the brink of winning seven straight matches for the first time in 80 years, and yet, Georgia defeated them 2-0 at home.
Strachan will want to pick up six points from the games against Ketsbaia's men and avoid the kind of sickening setback McLeish suffered seven years ago.
Current World Ranking: N/A
A catastrophic performance aside—though Scotland fans will always have a niggling doubt in the back of their minds—Strachan's men should be defeating qualification new boys Gibraltar with relative ease.
A respectable 0-0 draw with Slovakia in their first full international fixture seems to have been a false dawn for Allen Bula's side.
A 4-1 defeat at the hands of 172nd ranked Faroe Islands in their first home match has solidified their status as the potential whipping boys of the group, despite Ben Burrows of Mirror Football reporting that Bula is targeting third place and a play-off spot.