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Scotland’s potential World Cup play off opponents profiled as old tormentor and familiar foes lie in wait

Daily Record logo Daily Record 25/11/2021 Robbie Copeland & Ben Banks

Gone are the days of wishing international football away for the winter.

Nowadays you'd be hard pressed to find a Scottish football fan who isn't counting down the days until March.

Steve Clarke's team aren't the finished article just yet but if that 2-0 victory over Denmark at Hampden proved anything, it's that we're a respectable side once more.

But there are heights yet to hit and qualifying for a World Cup would be a momentous step in the right direction.

We don't know who we're playing yet but we do know it's at Hampden.

And while goalkeeper Craig Gordon said we'd take anyone if we play as well as we did earlier this month, it's nice to know what we're potentially up against.

So with all eyes set to be on Zurich for Friday's draw here are our six potential opponents.

Austria

Formed : 1904

FIFA ranking : 30

Manager : Franco Foda

Star man : David Alaba (Real Madrid)

WC 2022 campaign : Austria are well known to Scotland after finishing fourth in our qualifying section. But they made the playoffs through the Nations League and will be desperate for a chance at Hampden revenge.

Interesting fact : Austria's rivalry with Hungary is the second most played derby match in international football, behind Argentina and Uruguay.

What they've said : Manager Franco Foda: "We have no ideal opponents, at this level all teams are a great challenge. Every game is important because there is a place at the World Cup at stake for all the teams. Everyone wants to go to the Finals.

"I won't specify any particular preference for a country, but a short journey would certainly not be a disadvantage."

North Macedonia

North Macedonia's Egzijan Alioski. © Getty Images North Macedonia's Egzijan Alioski.

Formed : 1945 (joined FIFA in 1994)

FIFA ranking : 67

Manager : Blagoja Milesvki

Star man : Elif Elmas (Napoli)

WC 2022 campaign : North Macedonia were the best of the rest in Group J, but there's no shame in that considering Germany were the winners.

Interesting fact : Euro 2020 was North Macedonia's first ever major tournament.

What they've said : Manager Blagoja Milevski: "I keep reading in this country that it would be best for us if we are to be drawn against Scotland - I do not know why everyone underestimates Scotland.

"They are an extremely good team. I understand why people say we want to avoid Italy and Portugal because they are both perceived as being very strong.

"But there is no such thing as an easy draw anyway. We have players who play in top leagues too. We won't be afraid of anyone.

"We have shown that on the pitch. We actually play better away from home anyway. We have a team capable of qualifying."

Turkey

Formed : 1923

FIFA ranking : 37

Manager : Stefan Kuntz

Star man : Hakan Calhanoglu (Inter)

WC 2022 campaign : A disappointing Euros was followed up by a strong World Cup qualifying campaign as Turkey lost just once - though that was a 6-1 thumping against the Netherlands.

Interesting fact : As recently as 2004, Turkey were ranked fifth in the world but have tumbled down the rankings ever since.

What they've said : Manager Stefan Kuntz: "Believe me, Scotland will not be an easy away match for us. Frankly, I don't want to be drawn against them.

"I have had experiences of playing in away games in Scotland and their fans are a big advantage to them. It's not something we want to have to contend with.

"Look, there's nothing we can do about the draw, it's not in our hands. I believe in this team though and I am certain we can qualify for the World Cup."

Poland

© Getty Images

Formed: 1921

FIFA ranking: 27

Manager: Paulo Sousa

Star man: Robert Lewandowski (who scored twice at Hampden to end Euro 2016 hopes)

WC 2022 campaign: Poland did just about all they could in Group I with top seeds England, finishing second on a very respectful 20 points after a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign saw them knocked out at the group stages.

Interesting fact: The Eagles can now call upon Aston Villa's Matty Cash at international - who was born in Slough. He qualifies through his mother.

What they've said: Manager Paulo Sousa: "In the first match I would like to play away against Scotland.

"And then after that, we want to play Sweden because it would be a great opportunity for a rematch for the Euro 2020 game in the summer which would give us additional motivation.

"Of course it wouldn't be an easy game for us against them, but we are ready for the challenge."

Ukraine

Formed: 1992

FIFA ranking: 25

Manager: Oleksandr Petrakov

Star man: Oleksandr Zinchenko

WC 2022 campaign: An eye-catching Euro 2020 campaign which resulted in a quarter-final spot has been built upon. They're unbeaten since the summer and finished qualifying unbeaten - but with six draws and just two wins.

Interesting fact: Zinchenko became Ukraine's youngest ever captain in March after his form at Manchester City.

What they've said : Manager Oleksandr Petrakov: "I couldn't care less who we get drawn about. All I know is that these players are good enough to get to the World Cup.

"I have no fear about drawing Italy or Portugal, nor am I interested in any of the other countries we could draw. My only interest is getting Ukraine to the Finals.

"I know we will qualify."

Czech Republic

a close up of a man throwing a ball: Patrik Schick is bang in form for Czech Republic © POOL/AFP via Getty Images Patrik Schick is bang in form for Czech Republic

Formed: 1994

FIFA ranking: 31

Manager: Jaroslav Šilhavý

Star man: Tomas Soucek

WC 2022 campaign: Czech Republic have used the Nations League route to make the play-offs after missing out on second spot in Group E to Wales. The Czechs beat Scotland to the top in Group 2 to secure their play-off berth.

Interesting fact: Football has been surpassed by ice hockey as the nation's favourite sport.

What they've said : Assistant manager Jiri Chytry: "Personally, I would prefer to get Scotland again. We have experience with them and we have a positive experience particularly of playing against Scotland. I am sure we would be able to handle it, although it would be more difficult this time because of a full stadium.

"And of course, we have a great deal of information against them so preparation would be easier. We were very convincing against Scotland at the Euros and that could be a psychological help in our favour too."

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