The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Striking deficiency not yet addressed
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.