Positive signs for Scotland ahead of Nations League push

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Scotland may have missed out on a spot at this summer’s World Cup, but there are reasons to be optimistic for the Tartan Army.

Ahead of a run of challenging friendly fixtures and the upcoming Nations League, we look at what the future could hold under February appointment Alex McLeish

Well-balanced defence paying dividends

It’s hard to think of many – if any – other European sides with the quality and potential that Scotland have at full-back.

Liverpool’s Andy Robertson has been one of the Premier League’s best performers in 2017-18. Solid at the back, he’s also chalked up five league assists in the process.

Meanwhile, Celtic’s Kieran Tierney has been a classy and combative performer at right-back.

Add in the experience of guys like Christoph Berra and Charlie Mulgrew at centre-back, and it’s clear McLeish has plenty of defensive talent at his disposal. And with a well-deserved reputation for building solid sides, he’s likely to make the most of it.

Scotland finished World Cup qualification with three clean sheets in four games. The impressive recent 1-0 friendly win at Hungary under McLeish suggests that will continue.

He’s done the job before…and impressed

The 59-year-old has quite the CV. As Rangers boss, he won the Scottish top-flight twice, while he also lifted a League Cup as Birmingham City boss. And you can add top-flight management stints in Belgium and Egypt to that.

But perhaps most notably, ‘Big Eck’ has done the Scotland job before – with impressive results.

As Scotland boss from January-November 2007, he led the national side to seven wins in 10 games – including that unforgettable 1-0 triumph in France.

In the end, they missed out on qualification for the 2008 Euros by two points – picking up 24 in 12 games.

No manager who’s been in charge for more than a single game can match McLeish’s 70% win ratio. That alone should provide the Tartan Army with a healthy dose of optimism.

The coming tests…

It’s perhaps a reflection of Scotland’s confidence right now that their next two friendly games are away to World Cup-bound opposition. They face Peru on Wednesday morning (2am UK time), before a meeting with Mexico on Sunday.

Peru have drawn three of their last six fixtures, and it’s 7/4 for Double Chance: Scotland or Draw. Meanwhile, they’re 9/1 to pull off a win in Mexico.

Pass those tests, and they could head into their UEFA Nations League clashes with Albania and Israel later this year in formidable form.

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.