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World Cup qualifiers: Scotland should be happy with second place

Scotland players celebrate against Malta

Archie Gemmill says Scotland should “see it as a group minus England”

Scotland should be happy if they can finish second in their World Cup 2018 qualifying group, says Archie Gemmill.

The former Scotland player believes the focus should be on beating Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta, rather than toppling group favourites England.

He also believes Gareth Southgate replacing Sam Allardyce as England manager may not be to their detriment.

“I think that would possibly make England stronger actually,” said 1978 World Cup hero Gemmill.

“Gareth has been in the England set-up for quite a few years. He is someone who’s a bit younger, a bit fresher and he may have some different ideas. I think it may help them.”

Southgate has taken over for the next four games after Allardyce’s departure, which followed a newspaper investigation claiming he offered advice on how to “get around” rules on player transfers.

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Gemmill, who scored one of the great World Cup goals against the Netherlands in the 1978 finals, believes Scotland will still find it tough to finish above the Auld Enemy.

“I think Scotland should look at it as it being a group minus England,” he said.

“The two games against England are going to be absolutely massive, but if Scotland can concentrate on picking up the points against Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta and take it as winning that group of teams, then they are going to be in a play-off for the World Cup.

“Slovakia will not be easy in any way, shape or form so I think if you can get second position, everybody will be delighted.

“But if everything goes for you over the next 18 months and you finish first, absolutely delighted.”

Gordon Strachan’s men face Lithuania at Hampden Park on Saturday before travelling to Trnava to face Slovakia on Tuesday, 11 October as they look to build on last month’s 5-1 win over Malta.

But Kenny Dalglish, Scotland’s most-capped player, has warned Lithuania will provide much sterner opposition than Malta, and that a 1-0 win would suffice.

Dalglish said: “If we get a good result it sets us on our way. Many people are saying it’s a must-win but it’s just two games into the qualifying section.

“It’s important that you win, it’s important that you get as many points as possible early doors but I wouldn’t say it’s that desperate at the moment.

“You don’t need to be winning four and five, 1-0 will do us fine.

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Scotland began their qualifying campaign with a 5-1 win over Malta

“Lithuania have been here a couple of times in recent years and they always seem to be big, strong and quite well organised. Maybe they are a little bit more defensive than what you would like, but it’s going to be a difficult game to try and break them down.

“At the end of the day we just need to be patient. If we get a fluke or an own goal and it gets us through then fine, we’ll have that.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37542076