Ahead of the Scotland / England game...

by Ian Carse - 21:07 on 10 November 2016
England v Scotland


Qualification to get to the Football World Cup in Russia in 2018


Group F in this competition consists of:

England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania & Malta

England will face Scotland at Wembley on Friday, 11 November 2016, with the return game in Scotland to be played on Saturday, 10 June 2017 and that will be the only two games Scotland will play against an independent country that has a bigger population than Scotland

On Sunday 4 September 2016 Scotland beat Malta 5-1 in Malta in their opening game of this world cup campaign. Robert Snodgrass scored a hat-trick(3 goals in one game for those less interested in football than Nerds like me) and it was declared we were “on our way”

This coming weekend Scotland will play Lithuania at Hampden and then on Tuesday of next week play Slovakia in Slovakia (Bratislava to be precise)

Apart from these games Scotland will play other world cup qualifying games in 2017 and these will be:

Slovenia at Hampden on 23 March

Lithuania in Lithuania on 1 Sept

Malta at Hampden on 4 September

Slovakia at Hampden on 5 October

Slovenia in Slovenia on 8 October

You will probably hear folk talking about all of this as each game approaches, takes place and then requires detailed analysis by supporters after the event

If you hear these conversations here are one or two facts that you maybe could consider throwing into the conversation to stimulate a debate.


Approx population

Date of independence

Joined UN



3.7 million


17 Sept 1991



5.4 million


19 Jan 1993



2 million


22 May 1992





1 Dec 1964



5,373,000 (2015)*


Still to be determined



* Source of Scotland’s figures – National Records of Scotland and Tim Ellis, the Registrar General of Scotland, said: “The figures produced by National Records of Scotland paint a picture of our nation in 2015. The Registrar General’s Annual Review has been published since 1855, and over that time my predecessors have faithfully recorded the state of our nation, and told our story – one of changes, both big and small.

“The population in 1855 was 2,978,065. This year’s figures show our population is still increasing, mostly due to migration, and in 2015 was at its highest ever at 5,373,000 people. The population is continuing to age and this change will bring both opportunities and challenges in the years ahead.

“As well as more people moving to Scotland than leaving, fewer babies were born during 2015 and there were more deaths than in 2014."


In football terms people are saying that this is a tough group and that England are the favourites to win it, thus qualifying automatically for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Commentators are therefore saying that second place is likely to be fought out between Scotland, Slovenia and Slovakia with Malta likely to come last but Lithuania are the dark horses and could produce upsets starting with this week’s game against Scotland.

The question that arises in my mind is why should we fear playing countries much smaller than us? Only Slovakia has a comparable population and, admittedly, a very good background in football as they used to be part of Czechoslovakia who were an excellent national team before the Berlin Wall came down and they were rightly the second seeds in the draw.

The other nations considered to be a threat to Scotland on the football pitches of Europe (Slovenia & Lithuania) do not have much of a pedigree in football but their independent government’s (just like Malta) do see success in football as leading to improved morale in the population because it is such a mass participation sport.

All countries (including England) see success in sport generally encouraging pride in their country and a belief in what they can collectively achieve to make others stand up and take notice of their country in all respects. They therefore invest time, money and effort into things that enhance the nation’s feeling of worth and give people an identity they can be proud of.

A good example of how this works is the pride we all take in Orkney teams doing so well. It gives us a sense of both pride and satisfaction that all the time, money and effort we put into these teams is worthwhile and gives us a sense of pride that Orkney is a good place to be and that others around the globe recognise what we have to offer.

Can we say any of that about Scotland beyond what our limited Parliament can do on it’s own with such limited powers? The Parliament has certainly made a difference and helped to bring focus and pride in all sorts of ways but we could achieve so much more if we were not tied to the apron strings of the UK!

Take a look at the evidence of how the UK Government made so much of the recent Olympic and Paralympic success for their own purposes to see what I mean. Then ask yourself, and others who may be engrossed in the football over the next week, how many were Scots and how could their success have helped their country if the will and the resources had been there to make the most of it?

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