Where Scotland’s qualifying hopes stand

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Scotland manager Gordon Strachan and coach Callum Davidson are all smiles in training on Sunday

Three games to go. Three wins required.

The impressive 3-0 triumph in Lithuania on Friday night means Scotland are still in with a shout of securing a play-off spot as they chase a place at the World Cup in Russia next year.

England remain top of Group F on 17 points, Slovakia are second on 15, with Scotland third on 11 after seven games.

Nine more points are needed for Gordon Strachan’s side to have a chance of pipping Slovakia to second spot and that possible play-off berth.

The first of the remaining three matches is on Monday night, with Malta visiting Hampden. That is as straightforward as it’s going to get, as October brings the visit of Slovakia to Glasgow before the Scots go to Slovenia on the final day.

The top eight runners-up from Europe’s nine World Cup qualifying groups go into a two-legged play-off for a place at the 2018 World Cup

Malta make their way to Glasgow without a point, having scored just twice, and having conceded 19 times in their seven outings. Scotland beat them 5-1 them in the away match in September.

Anything other than three points would realistically end hope of Strachan taking his charges to Russia next year. A slip-up is unthinkable, especially after the energetic and high-quality display in beating Lithuania in Vilnius.

Wembley watch

There is, however, still plenty of scope for Scottish fans to endure a nervy Monday night because of events elsewhere.

If Slovakia end England’s 36-match unbeaten run in qualifying fixtures in that one at Wembley, the dream is gone for Scotland.

The table would say it’s still possible, but that scenario would require Malta pulling off a near miracle by winning in Slovakia.

England have plenty of incentive of their own, beyond doing their neighbours to the north a favour. Dropping down to second in the group with two games to play could spell disaster for Gareth Southgate’s side.

They won 1-0 in Slovakia on match day one, but it took a 95th-minute Adam Lallana goal to secure the three points in Trnava.

A draw on Monday at Wembley and Scotland are still kicking, and fans can take heart from the fact England’s unbeaten record in home qualifiers goes back to the night they lost 3-2 to Croatia in November 2007.

Slovenia, level on 11 points with Scotland but having scored fewer goals, entertain Lithuania on Monday and in all likelihood will end the night still neck and neck with Strachan’s side.

They still have a trip to Wembley ahead of them, which represents a major hurdle as they try to stay in the hunt for second.

And then, on 8 October any unresolved issues will be decided when Scotland visit Slovenia and Slovakia entertain Malta.

Play-offs

If Scotland do find themselves in second spot when the final whistle blows that day, a play-off berth will hopefully be the reward. But there’s no guarantee.

Only the eight best-placed runners-up from the nine European qualifying groups go into the play-offs, and much can change over the next three games.

When the campaign is over, the teams finishing second in their groups will have the matches they played against the bottom team in their pool discounted. They will then be ranked.

At the moment, Slovakia are second to Portugal on the list of best-placed runners-up, but so much can and will change in the remaining three matches.

One things is for sure, the next six weeks will be gripping.

Andrew Robertson scored a stunner to send Scotland 2-0 ahead in Lithuania


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