Scotland did rather well to leave Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena with just a narrow 2-1 loss on their Euro 2016 qualifying record, especially seeing as two of Caledonia’s most talented native sons were helping Group D competitors Republic of Ireland to a 2-1 win in Georgia.
Martin O’Neill’s first competitive fixture as Ireland chief was marked by a brace from Aiden McGeady, with the Everton winger set up for his 23rd minute opener by fellow Toffeeman James McCarthy.
Both were born within 10 miles of Glasgow, but each was convinced to switch football allegiances to the country of their paternal grandparents, prompting plenty of religious rancour over the border.
McGeady and McCarthy would both walk into Gordon Strachan’s first XI; of the former Coventry and Southampton boss’ current crop only fellow Evertonian Steven Naismith can hold a candle to the lost pair.
By all accounts O’Neill’s charges, who qualified for the last Euros under old gaffer Giovanni Trapattoni, were very average against Temuri Ketsbaia’s Georgia in Tbilisi, so escaping with all three points bodes well for their 8/11 qualification chances.
There is room for Ireland to improve, but with established Premier League campaigners such as Shane Long, David Meyler, Anthony Pilkington and Darron Gibson not making O’Neill’s starting line-up, the former Celtic and Aston Villa has a measure of strength in depth.
Ireland will make it two wins out of two next time out at home to Gibraltar, who went down 7-0 on their own patch against Poland, and while a trip to Germany in the following fixture is unlikely to yield points, O’Neill’s men should still be ahead of Scotland when the teams meet for the first time at the end of March.
Strachan’s side face matches against Georgia and Poland before then, which are both eminently losable for a country that last qualified for an international tournament in the 20th century.
6/4 on them to make it to France after an opening-game loss should not be touched, no matter who Scotland were facing.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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