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UEFA Nations League 2018/19: Scotland off to a winning start

CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
124   //    12 Sep 2018, 14:15 IST

There has been an air of apathy surrounding the Scotland national team in recent years. Having not qualified for a major tournament since the World Cup in France, 1998, fans have grown disillusioned with team.

For a spell last year under the leadership of Gordon Strachan, a slight sign of a revival was sparked. Scotland went 2-1 ahead against arch rivals England at the home of Scottish football, Hampden Park, their were scenes of mass jubilation across the country, only for England to score an injury time equaliser. The rest of the qualifying campaign uttered out after that brief high point.

Strachan, left his post at the end of the campaign and instead of appointing a young, ambitious manager, the SFA went with the out of work, former Scotland manager Alex McLeish.

In his first spell in 2007, Scotland came close to qualifying for Euro 2008, having been drawn in a group with big guns, France and Italy, not much was expected, however, Scotland went on to record one of their biggest wins by beating France 1-0 in Paris. Scotland then went on to defeat Ukraine 3-1, only to lose to an unfancied Georgia team which made the last game against Italy at Hampden Park, a decider between both countries. Scotland lost the game 2-1 in what was to be McLeish's last game in charge, before he made the move to the then EPL team Birmingham City.

Scotland v Albania - UEFA Nations League C
Scotland v Albania - UEFA Nations League C

McLeish's second reign in charge has not got off to the best of starts with a host of friendly games played with disappointing results. However, Monday gave McLeish the chance to see how his young squad would fare in a competitive environment with the start of the new UEFA Nations League kicking off with a home game against Albania.

Having suffered a 4-0 loss on the previous Friday to Belgium and with torrential rain, the Tartan Army needed some inspiration.

Scotland started the match quickly, attacking from the off, debutant Johnny Russell winning a free kick after a good run caused Albanian defender Egzon Binaku, major problems. Throughout the first half Scotland kept the pressure up and were unlucky to go in at the break goal less. Steven Naismith, recently recalled to the squad, had goal disallowed, missed an open goal and hit the post.

The second half started, again with a Scotland attack and this time there was to be no denying Naismith, who headed home after a deflection from an Albanian defender. Own goal or not Naismith was claiming it.

Scotland limited Albania to a couple of efforts however goalkeeper Allan McGregor was the equal of anything thrown at him.

As Scotland kept probing for a second goal, it was Naismith who again would come up trumps, when he found the net in the 68th minute.

Scotland kept on attacking, with Celtic's Callum McGregor unlucky with a few of his efforts on goal.

Scotland v Albania - UEFA Nations League C
Scotland v Albania - UEFA Nations League C

Although the Albanian defence was not up to much, this was a much needed morale boosting win by Scotland, with the game ending 2-0. Scotland getting the Nations League off to a great start. Scotland should go into their next match with a deal of confidence, when they travel to Israel next month, who were defeated by Albania 1-0 on Friday.

There is a great chance for Scotland to win their Nations League group and with the Nations League play off winners earning a spot at Euro 2020, this could be Scotland's best chance of returning to the big time for many a year.

Only 17,000 fans turned up to Hampden Park on Monday, however more performances and results like this then the fans will surely return and optimism will spread throughout the country.

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