Scotland v Slovenia: ‘Must-win’ match will bring best out of Scots – Gordon Strachan

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Scotland v Slovenia: ‘Must-win’ match will bring best out of Scots – Gordon Strachan

Scotland coach Gordon Strachan insists the ‘must-win’ nature of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia will bring the best out of his side.

The Scots lie fifth in Group F, four points adrift of their opponents, who are second behind leaders England.

Strachan admits anything less than victory will spell the end of another bid to end Scotland’s finals drought.

“There’s no grey areas to it. It’s must-win. That’s dealing with reality. We have to win,” said the 60-year-old.

“But sometimes when you have a challenge like that in life, it brings the best out of you so we will have a team ready for that challenge of ‘must win’.

“What we don’t have to do is win it in the first five or 10 minutes. You never know in big games when your opportunity will come along.

“However, what we do have to do is make opportunities and the players we pick will make those opportunities.

“But if we don’t score, we must get back into our shape that allows them very little opportunities.”

Strachan admits there are “a couple of knocks” in his squad, with Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser again forced to sit out training on Saturday with a knee injury that prevented his involvement against Canada.

But the head coach has decided on his line-up that will face the Slovenians, who are ranked 58th in Fifa’s world rankings, above Scotland in 67th.

The visitors have drawn 2-2 with Lithuania and won 1-0 in Malta in their two away matches to date, and beaten Slovakia and drawn with England at home.

“What we have done is pick a team that is feeling good about themselves,” said Strachan, who is likely to lean on up to six of Celtic’s players, who are unbeaten in domestic competition this season.

“It might be completely different from the England game but I am hoping we get the same commitment, the same bravery on the ball.

“If we can get it together then we will be fine. We can compete with most teams.

“We have got the shape right. We’ve got the players now. We’ve given them the information and we’re ready to go now.”

‘Everybody loves playing under the gaffer’

Having come off bench during Wednesday’s insipid friendly draw against Canada, Leigh Griffiths is among the Hoops contingent jockeying for a start, and one of five strikers aiming to catch Strachan’s eye.

Shorter in stature than English Championship rivals Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher – upon whom the national boss has chiefly relied – but fleeter of foot, Griffiths believes calls for Strachan’s head after a poor start to the campaign have been unwarranted.

“I’m not saying I should start, but I think everybody’s got different attributes,” he said of his offensive rivals. “Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher are taller than me, but these kinds of players won’t run in behind – I do.

“That decision rests with the manager and the person he decides to play will be fully-focused on doing his job for his country.

“There have been a lot of things said about the gaffer that are probably unfair, and as his players we need to take that criticism as well. Everybody loves coming away with Scotland, loves playing under him.

“I’ve seen things saying the gaffer should resign, but as his players, we want to get a good performance, and three points that put us only one point behind Slovenia with the England game coming up in the summer.”