The appetite for international football has been waiting very much in Scotland for quite a few years now, with their last qualification for a major tournament being the French 1998 World Cup. Many managers with impressive CVs have tried and failed to bring glory back to Scotland and now Alex McLeish faces the task. The appointment of ‘Big Eck’ wasn’t exactly welcomed by the masses and he has struggled to change those opinions since.
After ten matches in charge, Scotland have won four of those games. Crucially three of these came in the UEFA Nations League, seeing them getting promoted from League C to B and guaranteeing them a play-off place for the European Championships. Therefore, even if they crash out of Group I, they still have a chance to qualify. The prize is too great to be complacent over though and with a rather favourable set of opponents ahead of them, they should be targeting the 2nd spot and automatic qualification.
They have definitely been impressive going forward in recent games with eleven goals scored in their last five games. However, they have done this by sacrificing much of their defensive resoluteness as they have kept just three clean sheets under McLeish, with their four goals conceded against 92nd placed Israel (3-2, 1-2) being a particular disappointment in their Nations League campaign.
Kazakhstan currently sits 117th in the FIFA World Rankings, but there is some positivity around the country as Michal Bílek prepares for his first competitive match as national team manager. The Czechoslovakian-born coach was appointed in January following an impressive stint in charge of FC Fastav Zlín in the Czech top division. His first call-up has included a lot of experience, with just five players under the age of 23, but one thing they are desperately in need of is goals, as none of the selected squad have over five at international level. Much of this has resulted in Kazakhstan failing to ever qualify for a World Cup or European Championships.
Bílek will be aiming to change that and will be confident he can after he got off to a winning start with his first match in charge last month. His side hosted Moldova and won 1-0 through a Oralkhan Omirtayev goal. The 20-year-old forward has already played 50 league matches for his team, Shakhter Karagandy, and boasts a pretty solid international record of two goals in two matches, he will be Kazakhstan’s danger man. Before Bílek joined Kazakhstan, they had a reputation of being extremely weak at the back with just two clean sheets in their nine matches under Bílek’s predecessor Stanimir Stoilov.
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