Steven Naismith urges Scotland to ‘make more history’ with Ukraine play-off win
Steven Naismith wants Scotland to embrace the prospect of “making more history” when they face Ukraine on Wednesday night.
The Scots’ qualification for the delayed 2020 European Championship saw them take part in their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France.
Now, if they overcome Ukraine in a World Cup play-off semi-final at Hampden Park and then Wales in the final in Cardiff, Scotland will book a place at the Qatar tournament later this year.
Naismith highlighted the dangers of Ukraine – whose preparations have been disrupted by the turmoil caused by the invasion of the country by Russia – but believes a long-awaited World Cup spot is within Scotland’s grasp.
The Scotland coach said: “Ukraine have had a period of time where they have had a squad together.
“They have done their preparation, they have had matches within that so they will be as ready as they can be.
“They are an aggressive team, they are comfortable, they have a good shape that they work from and they try to capitalise on your mistakes.
“From our point of view, everyone understands what we expect and what we want to do when we have possession of the ball and the smaller details is what you look at in the meetings, but overall Scotland go in confident.
“You are so close to making more history.
“Over the last two years we have been fortunate, we have had a great team.
“That great team is two years more experienced, the players have progressed at club level in those two years and hopefully we can take the first steps to get to a World Cup.
“I am definitely confident we can go into these two games and get the results we need.”
Ukraine’s plight has dominated the build-up to a game which was originally planned for March but was postponed following Russia’s invasion of their neighbours the month previously.
Whilst sharing in the widespread sympathy for Ukraine’s situation, Naismith is concentrating on a game which promises so much to both teams.
The former Scotland forward said: “Both managers have said it, the focus has to be on the football and the spectacle it should be.
“That’s how we have seen it and the desire to get to a World Cup overrides everything in terms of the football side of things.
“You want to go out, you want to be competitive.
“Everybody involved in getting to this point and getting the fixture played has done everything right and made the right choices to give everybody the best chance, but the focus now can be on the pitch.
“We thought the original game would be in March. From March until now there has been a build-up, everybody in Scotland can feel that, there is a buzz.
“I expect the fans to be electric in the stadium and then it is about being confident and getting the win.”