SCOTLAND started their Nations League campaign with some Hampden swagger but the acid test comes in the next few days with tricky road trips to Dublin and Yerevan.
After the agony of crashing out of the World Cup play-offs to Ukraine there was a danger Steve Clarke’s men would suffer a hangover when Armenia came calling on Wednesday.
But the national boss freshened his team up and was rewarded with a dominant display as the Scots eased to a 2-0 victory.
The win was far more convincing than the scoreline suggested and my tip of a home win to nil was never really in danger against such a limited Armenian side.
Scotland now face an Irish team who lost to Armenia in their opener away from home then followed it up with a 1-0 Dublin defeat to Ukraine.
I thought the Ukrainians were overpriced for a win on Irish soil and cashed in as Stephen Kenny’s men turned in another display lacking in character and class.
The former Dunfermline boss was charged with bringing more style to the Republic’s game after replacing Mick McCarthy but got off to a nightmare start, failing to win in his first 12 competitive games.
There were signs of some green shoots of recovery towards the end of their doomed World Cup bid as Ireland went five games unbeaten.
But some familiar failings have returned in the Nations League with Kenny’s side drawing damaging blanks in their first two matches.
This tournament has brought the Irish nothing but misery on both sides of the border with neither the Republic nor the North managing a victory since its inception.
That miserable record has to end sometime but Scotland have gone four games unbeaten on the road since losing 2-0 in Denmark back in September 2021.
That’s why Clarke’s side are just 40/85 in the double chance market tonight, with McBookie pricing them at 7/4 for a win.
The best bet could be backing a lack of goalmouth action with the Irish misfiring and Che Adams low on confidence for Scotland.
But the half-time draw can be backed at 13/14 with VBet and that is much more attractive.
We should also see some meaty challenges and the card markets are worth examining.
Shane Duffy is prone to a rash challenge and the former Celtic loanee appeals for a card at 9/4 with Bet365.
For a Scottish card, John McGinn is always worth backing as he’s at the heart of the midfield battle. McBookie price him at 17/10.
Set-pieces could be crucial in deciding who comes out on top and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a lot of corners.
Bet365 are offering 10/11 on a corner being won inside the first eight minutes and the same firm price over nine match corners at 11/8. Scotland were dangerous from set-pieces against the Armenians, especially when McGinn whipped the ball in.
That makes the Aston Villa star well worth a punt for an assist at a whopping 5/1 with McBookie.
Based on Armenia’s display at Hampden, Ukraine shouldn’t have too much trouble claiming a win in the other group game.
It’s being held in Poland with war still raging but Ukraine will still have passionate backing and I fancy them to win both halves at 13/8 (Paddy Power). Backing the Ukrainians at -2 in the handicap pays 21/10 with the same firm.