‘Scotland face game of a generation’

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Slovakia beat Scotland 3-0 in October in Trnava

Scotland’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in October is the most important game in a generation, says former winger Pat Nevin.

Following a 2-0 win over Malta on Monday, Gordon Strachan’s side could finish second in Group F if they beat Slovakia then Slovenia, with eight runners-up reaching the play-offs.

“For a couple of generations, they’ve always had one game where it is ‘lose that and it’s all starting again’. This is it,” Nevin told BBC Scotland. “You’ve got to win both of them.”

One of the nine runners-up in Europe’s qualifying groups for Russia 2018 will miss out on a play-off place.

And Nevin says that Scotland could still win their final two games but finish bottom of the table of second-placed teams.

Leigh Griffiths (left) scored Scotland’s second goal against Malta

“We’ve found new and exciting ways not to qualify,” he said.

“I’ve looked at all the stats, I’ve looked at all the groups just now and of course we are in a pretty prime position to be one of the lowest qualifiers – if not the lowest.

“But don’t worry about it. Just do your job, get on with it, do the best you possibly can and, if you finish second in this group and you don’t qualify, you’ve done a good job.”

Nevin added that Scotland, who are now one point behind second-placed Slovakia, have a good young group of players emerging who have a chance of “doing something special” in future campaigns even if they fail to reach these finals.

The Scots had been third seeds behind Slovakia and ahead of Slovenia, who lead Strachan’s side on goal difference.

“If you look at the table this morning, it is the way you would have expected it to look at the start of this campaign,” said Nevin.

“Scotland should be roughly about where Slovakia and Slovenia are. We knew England would probably be well out ahead of everyone else.

“It has taken an odd few twists and turns to get here, but it is kind of where we expected it to be going into the last couple of games.”

Slovakia lost 2-1 to England at Wembley on Monday

An early goal from Christophe Berra and a second-half strike from Leigh Griffiths were enough to see off a Malta side who have yet to take a point from eight qualifiers.

“Scotland are playing well,” added Nevin of their four-game unbeaten run. “This is a brilliant run now.

“Okay, we only beat Malta, but it is the run that Scotland are on and also the confidence on the ball.

“These games don’t live long in the memory. I played against Malta and I scored and I can hardly remember it.

“You score the goal, you win the game and you move on.

“The fans know that’s the case now. We’re not going to wipe the floor with teams.”

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