Preview – World Cup Football: England v Scotland

tartan army

Tonight, England and Scotland meet at Wembley for the 113th time in front of a 90,000-capacity crowd featuring the customary mix of kilt-wearing, ginger-bewigged, Tam O’Shanter-topped funsters among the vocal, 14,000-strong travelling Tartan Army.

I’ve always enjoyed these games. Not because I want to see England drub the Scots (which is a bonus outcome), rather this fixture, for 90 minutes, takes international football, strips it naked and delivers a good old fashioned derby. It’s sure to be tactics-lite, frenetic and lacking in finesse. But who cares? Bring it on!

Scotland have not made it to a major tournament finals since their ill-fated France 98 campaign and with only one team guaranteed to advance from a group that also includes Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta, they need to take something from this game.

Scotland fans for the last couple of decades have revelled in the calamities and misfortunes that rain down on England when, with no modesty whatever, we arrive for a championships in the deluded belief that this is our year – it’s 66 all over again – France 2016 being just the latest example. Tonight, though they have the chance to revel in beating the auld enemy in his own back yard and in doing so boost their chances of qualification for Russia 2018. Can they do it? Well, when it comes to derby games you can pretty much throw the form book out of the window. I suspect this game will come down to who deals best with the occasion on the night.

World Cup Football: England v Scotland Friday from 7.15 on ITV