Scotland Making Huge Strides Under Gordon Strachan [VIDEO]

Scotland have not qualified for a European Championship or a World Cup since 1996 and 1998 respectively. The country has also never made a significant run in either tournament when it has achieved inclusion into the competitions. These are painful realities for that Tartan Army, as well as Scotland’s current and former players.

This is a country that has produced the sporting talents of Jim Baxter, Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish; as well as numerous football managers: Jock Stein, Sir Matt Busby, Sir Alex Ferguson and Bill Shankly. But it has never tasted success on the national team level.

Scotland have edged closer to qualification in recent European competitions.

During the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign they were placed in a group with Italy and 2006 World Cup runners-up, France. Scotland were able to defeat France twice during the group stages, but ultimately missed out on qualification after failing to take points from Georgia and Italy in their final group matches.

In the 2012 European campaign, Scotland were paired with the Czech Republic and defending world champions, Spain. They were just edged out by the Czechs on the last day of qualification after a 3-1 defeat to La Roja.

Momentum has been building in Scotland. This is a country that has incredible passion for the sport and has been dying for inclusion into a major competition.

I was fortunate enough to be at the 2008 European qualifier against France at Hampden Park in October 2006. When Gary Caldwell stabbed in Paul Hartley’s corner kick in the 67th minute, a noise came out of that stadium that I have never heard at a sporting event to this day. The building shook, drinks flew, fans were jumping on each other, hugging and dancing. And when the final whistle blew, the happiness on the faces of each Scottish supporter was something that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I witnessed pure joy.

Scotland have once again been thrown into a difficult qualifying group in Europe. They are currently in Group D of the competition with Poland, defending World Cup champions, Germany; and a resurgent Republic of Ireland.

They narrowly lost their opening group match to Germany, 2-1 in Dortmund, before beating Georgia and drawing with Poland in Warsaw during their next two qualifying fixtures.

Last night, Scotland defeated Ireland 1-0 in a grueling match at Celtic Park. The win leaves them level on points with Germany and Ireland after four matches. With six Euro 2016 qualifiers left, Scotland will once again be in a dog fight in order to advance past the group stages of the competition.

There is an renewed energy about the team and its supporters since the return of manager Gordon Strachan to the touchline. The 57-year-old Edinburgh-native has been lauded for his ability to help the national team reach its full potential since he took over in January 2013.

Gone are the days of the 4-6-0 formation deployed by former manager Craig Levein when Scotland lost to the Czech Republic during its Euro 2010 qualifier. Strachan has Scotland playing attacking football once again.

Scottish great Denis Law was recently interviewed by the English newspaper the Telegraph and gave his thoughts on the national team’s direction under Strachan.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Gordon’s managing Scotland,” he said. “There’s one thing about Gordon: he is a manager who wants his teams to be positive.”

“I think everyone is happy at how Gordon is doing. You just feel something is going to happen. Even before the game starts, you feel the lads are all behind him and they are together and there are some decent players in there now.”

“We are Scotland. We were always an attacking team that tried to play nice football and score goals. The good thing about Gordon is that that’s back.”

To echo Law’s words, Scotland do play attacking football and have some ‘decent’ players. Steven Naismith, Shaun Maloney James Morrison and Ikechi Anya have provided the scoring thrust. While Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown, Charlie Mulgrew and Russell Martin add some leadership and strength to the lineup.

There’s a word making the rounds in football this season, “balance”. While Scotland may not have world class talent dotting their team sheet like some of Europe’s other bigger sides. It appears they have what managers aspire for their teams to achieve…balance.

Now is the time for Scotland to make it to the European Championship. The country has been waiting for inclusion into a major tournament for the past 16 years.

That wait could be over by this time next year.

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