Scotland coach George Burley turned up the heat on Norway by claiming defeat in Holland on Wednesday night would leave their FIFA World Cup™ qualifying hopes hanging by a thread. Burley watched Egil Olsen's men held to a goalless draw in Macedonia yesterday as they extended their winless run in European Zone Group 9 to four matches.
At the start of the qualifying campaign, Norway were thought to be Scotland's chief rivals for the runners-up spot, but defeat in Rotterdam in midweek would leave them rock bottom of the table and four points adrift of Burley's side. The countries then meet in Oslo on 12 August and Burley believes Norway would be under huge pressure to win that game.
He said: "Norway need points now. They've only got three points so far; they need to get things moving."
"If they do lose in Rotterdam, it's a must-win for them against us on August 12," he added. "They'd need to win all their games then.
"It's a competitive group. Not long ago, Norway went over to Germany and won in a friendly, so they're a good side. Every game's very difficult and we're certainly focused on the big game coming up," said Burley.
"It's a very early start for us; we're playing over in Norway before the SPL actually starts," he said. "So there's not going be any competitive action for the players, which is not ideal."
Nevertheless, Burley reckons Scotland are firmly "in the driving seat" to finish second after all their rivals dropped points this weekend. Scotland's grip on the runners-up spot was tightened last night as Holland won in Iceland to seal their place at next summer's finals shortly after Macedonia and Norway drew.
On Wednesday, Macedonia host Iceland before Holland take on Norway. Scotland will be hoping for another Holland victory, while keeping their fingers crossed that Macedonia drop points once again. That would make Burley's men strong favourites to finish second, though they may need to win all their remaining games to reach the play-offs, as the runners-up with the worst record from the nine groups face elimination.
Burley is confident Scotland will do enough in their final three group matches against Norway, Macedonia and Holland. He said: "I think we've got a great chance. All to play for, we're positive, we knew it was going to be tough - that's proved out.
"Apart from Holland, all the points have been shared round; it was a very important win for us against Iceland [in April] and that puts us in the driving seat for second position," he said.
"Every game's very difficult, but it can go either way," said Burley. "With the two home games to finish, I think that's crucial for us and hopefully we can get into that second position and then look forward to the play-offs."
"The international scene's not easy; it's completely different to club football. You haven't got the day-to-day involvement. But I think as a manager - and even as a player - to try to get to the World Cup finals, it doesn't come any bigger," he said.
"We haven't been there for ten years as a nation and it would be absolutely terrific if we can do that."