The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Strik­ing de­fi­ciency not yet ad­dressed

- BY CHRIS CRIGHTON Sports · Soccer · Finland · Liechtenstein · Scotland · Scottish Football League · Celtic F.C. · Steven Naismith · San Marino · Cyprus · Leigh Griffiths · Lawrence Shankland · Shaun Maloney

Fin­land’s de­feat of Liecht­en­stein to rat­ify a maiden tour­na­ment qual­i­fi­ca­tion was the most sig­nif­i­cant re­sult re­gard­ing Scot­land’s im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

Re­mov­ing the in­sur­gent Finns from the League C play­offs scored them out as Ham­p­den’s semi-fi­nal vis­i­tors, and per­haps pro­vided the Scots with sharp­ened mo­ti­va­tion to pre­vail.

For why shouldn’t

Scot­land qual­ify if Fin­land can, a star-free team an­chored by a Scot­tish League mid­fielder and re­liant upon the goals of a striker who couldn’t get a game for Celtic?

That could well be a per­fect de­scrip­tion of the Scot­land XI when the play-offs come around in March, de­pend­ing on Leigh Grif­fiths’ fate in the trans­fer win­dow and be­yond.

Had he not been sit­ting on 49 caps, Steven Nai­smith may not have been the lat­est to be handed the No. 9 shirt here. But it con­tin­ued Scot­land’s strug­gles to re­place Grif­fiths’ threat.

Nai­smith was the seventh dif­fer­ent start­ing cen­tre-for­ward in this cam­paign alone, the only goal among them com­ing from Lawrence Shank­land against San Marino.

Stress­fully beat­ing Cyprus – Fifa rank­ing 93 – is not ex­actly a dry run for what Scot­land will need to do in a po­ten­tial play-off fi­nal.

The last Scots­man to score a com­pet­i­tive winning goal against a na­tion ranked in­side the world’s top 50 is the lon­gre­tired Shaun Maloney more than five years ago.

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