Saturday, November 17, 2007

Can Scotland Beat Italy?

Football is a matter of life and death to many Scots. The national self-confidence will either take a huge boost or be plunged into depression later today. Scotland only have to win a single game, with home advantage, kick-off 5pm, to qualify for next year’s European Championship. The bad news is that the game is against Italy, who happen to be the current world champions.

Scotland could have made life easier for themselves by getting a point or two from their last fixture away to Georgia, but you can always trust Scotland to make things as hard as possible for themselves.

Can we do it? On paper, the answer is definitely no. The Italians are too strong. But Scotland have upset the odds several times in the qualifying group. When the draw was made and Scotland ended up in the same group as Italy, France and Ukraine, no one gave us half a chance, but we’ve put together a string of great results - including home and away victories against World Cup runners-up, France.

My feeling is that if Italy score first, we may as well forget it. I can’t see Scotland coming from behind. Italy’s defence is one of the best in the world and they have always been adept at holding one-goal leads and hitting sides mercilessly on the break.

Some people are suggesting Italy might really thump us. I’ve even read predictions of a 4-0 Italy win. I don’t think so, mainly because I think Italy will sit back and defend if they go 2-0 (or even perhaps 1-0) up.

But if the score is 0-0 around the 60-70 minute mark, or if Scotland sneak an early goal and are still ahead around that time, then anything is possible, even against the best team in the world. It won’t be any disgrace for Scotland to go out against Italy. All the pressure is on the world champions. That might work to Scotland’s advantage.

My prediction? I think Scotland will lose 1-0. But I hope that, against all the odds, we sneak a famous victory tonight. The team have performed brilliantly and deserve a reward.

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