After the euphoria of last week and qualifying for the Euros, Scotland tonight missed out on winning UEFA Nations League Group B2 and promotion to League A for the 2022/23 competition.
Defeat in Israel, which saw the Czech Republic win the group by two points, means Scotland will also miss out on a potential play-off to reach 2022’s Qatar World Cup, although they will, of course, still have the first route of regular qualification.
Before their major tournament return after 23 years away at the Euros next summer and June’s groups games against the Czechs, eternal rivals England and Croatia, Scotland will first begin their World Cup qualification quest, with those games set to run from March next year to March 2022.
What do we know so far about the qualifying process?
When’s the draw?
The draw for the European part of World Cup 2022 qualifying will take place at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on December 7.
Scotland’s group will either be comprised of five or six teams. Some groups will be smaller to accommodate the Nations League A sides who have reached the semis/final of that tournament.
The seedings for the draw will be based on the traditional FIFA world ranking (not the UEFA access list which determines the seedings for the Nations League draw), and the teams will as a result be split into six pots.
For the last World Cup draw, ahead of the 2018 tourney, the Scots’ ranking of 29th (20th in Europe) meant they went into pot C, one of five nine-team pots. The pot with the lowest-ranked sides (E) only contained seven teams.
This time the first five pots have 10 teams and the sixth, lowest-ranked team pot contains five sides.
Scotland are currently 45th in the rankings, 26th in Europe, so will still be in the third pot by the looks of things. Meaning it will be a tough campaign, with at least two of the Dark Blues’ group-mates stronger than them on paper.
When are the qualifiers scheduled to take place?
Matchday 1 – 24–25 March 2021
Matchday 2 – 27–28 March 2021
Matchday 3 – 30–31 March 2021
Matchday 4 – 1–2 September 2021
Matchday 5 – 4–5 September 2021
Matchday 6 – 7–8 September 2021
Matchday 7 – 8–9 October 2021
Matchday 8 – 11–12 October 2021
Matchday 9 – 11–13 November 2021
Matchday 10 – 14–16 November 2021
How do Scotland qualify for World Cup 2022?
Win their group, that’s the simplest way.
Of course, even the most optimistic member of the Tartan Army, buoyed by Euro qualification, would surely accept this may not be likely.
Fortunately, despite the disappointment of the 2020/21 Nations League near miss, Scotland could still earn a place in the play-offs by finishing second in their qualifying group.
All the play-off teams (10 group runners-up and two teams from the 2020/21 Nations League) will be split into three paths, each contesting a single-leg semi-final and, if successful, a single-leg final for a place at Qatar 2022.
Like the Euro play-offs just past, best ranking earns you the right to host the semi, while the play-offs draw will determine which team hosts the final.
The play-offs for the World Cup are scheduled to take place on March 24/25 (semis) and March 28/29 (final) 2022.
Don’t forget, the tournament then takes place in the winter for the first time due to oppressively hot summer conditions in the Middle East.
Feeling confident Scotland will be there?