Underdogs Scotland face 'mighty' England
LONDON, England (AP):
The latest instalment of international football's oldest rivalry is a jarring reminder for Scotland of just how far the team has fallen and keeps on plummeting.
The balance of power has firmly been in England's favour for decades.
And yet thousands of Scotland fans will still travel south to London for today's World Cup qualifier while fatalistic about their team's chances.
"I feel sorry for the younger fans because the future looks bleak," said Hamish Husband, a 58-year-old member of a group of Scottish supporters. "The reasons are self-inflicted. Not unlike England, we have this belief that because we invented football, then somehow we had a right to success.
"We have just been left behind. Modern football has changed, and Scottish football has not changed with it."
The rivalry that began in 1872 is being renewed at Wembley Stadium for the 113th time. It was forged on fading memories of fiercely competitive tussles on the field and fiery exchanges that often turned violent around the stadium. There were times when both England and Scotland contested major tournament finals and both teams could deploy gifted players.
England constantly agonise over their limited international success, with the 1966 World Cup being their only title and no final appearance since then. But England are reaching tournaments with rare slip-ups unlike Scotland, who last qualified for the World Cup in 1998.
When the newly expanded 24-team European Championship took place in France this year, all the British teams participated apart from Scotland.
"We look at countries like Iceland, who are showing what can be achieved with limited population and limited resources," SFA chief executive Stewart Regan told the Associated Press.
Thousands of members of the Tartan Army heading to Wembley will do so knowing there is little point booking trips to Russia for the 2018 World Cup. The Scots are only in fourth place in their qualifying group.
After three matches in Group F, England are already out in front in the only automatic qualification place.
In the FIFA rankings, Scotland are 57th, sandwiched between Macedonia and Mali, while England are 12th.
"We are horrific in Scotland at the moment," Scotland coach Gordon Strachan said. "We are in the worst state we've ever been. I am not talking about the Scotland national team, but the standard of kids coming through."
Only six members of the 25-man squad for the England game play in the cash-rich English Premier League. Another nine from are lower-league clubs in England. Just four are from Scottish champions Celtic. The standout name is winger Oliver Burke, who joined Bundesliga club Leipzig in August to develop his game.