Scotland v Macedonia preview

Scotland cannot afford anything less than a win against Macedonia if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

George Burley’s side are locked in a battle with Macedonia and Norway for second spot in Group 9, behind runaway leaders Holland – who they play on Wednesday.

A victory on Saturday followed by another win against a Dutch side that have already qualified will assure Scotland of second place in the group.

However, only the eight best runners-up qualify for the play-offs; meaning Scotland could still lose out if other results don’t go to plan.

But, in a bizarre twist,  results against the bottom nation of the other eight groups will not count because Scotland play in a group consisting of five teams rather than six; knocking as many as six points off potential rivals’ totals.

Perhaps surprisingly, Macedonia are bidding to qualify for their first World Cup but have to travel to Oslo after their contest with Scotland.

They will be buoyed by a narrow 3-2 friendly defeat to European champions Spain recently, but have failed to secure a point in either of their two away matches so far.

A raucous crowd is expected on Saturday at Hampden Park and Macedonia’s star striker Goran Pandev in particular is likely to receive a hot reception, having been accused of diving by Scotland assistant Terry Butcher.

‘Diver’; Goran Pandev

Christophe Berra’s absence with illness adds to a defensive crisis already plaguing the Scotland squad. Gary and Steven Caldwell were already sidelined with injury and suspension respectively, leaving Burley only three centre-backs to choose from.

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