Scotland and Cyprus have hardly been familiar bedfellows in recent times. The sides last met more than 20 years ago, when they were drawn together in a World Cup Qualifying group in 1989, with Scotland edging out both ties by the narrowest of margins. The Tartan Army will be hoping for a similar outcome when the pair face up in Larnaca on Friday night.
On those occasions in ‘89, Scotland won the home game at Hampden 2-1 and the return in Limassol 3-2, although they had to come from behind and rely on a Richard Gough goal more than five minutes into stoppage time to do it.
If Scotland are to notch up another win on Friday night they are going to have to do it without a host of star men. Long-term absentee Craig Gordon will be watching on the television along with Charlie Adam, Alan Hutton, Steven Naismith, Scott Brown, Barry Bannan and Lee Wallace.
The lengthy injury list has seen first call-ups for Hearts’ Ryan Stevenson, Huddersfield’s Jordan Rhodes and MK Dons’ Gary MacKenzie, the latter of whom in particular had Scotland fans logging onto Wikipedia in their droves to find out who he actually was.
Rhodes has scored an eye-catching 13 goals in 15 appearances for Huddersfield this season and he can be backed to score the first goal of the game on his debut at 6/1, or he’s 17/10 to score at any time.
Considering that Cyprus only broke the deadlock once in their entire Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, backing one of Scotland’s in-form strikers to score first looks like a decent bet here.
But with Craig Mackail-Smith and Kenny Miller also vying for a place in the side, Rhodes might have to do it from the bench if he is going to get his international career off to a flyer. Mackail-Smith scored his first Scotland goal in the win over Liechtenstein last month and he is 17/10 to score again in this one.
At the other end of the scale, Miller seems to have been involved in the Scotland set up forever and Friday’s match will see him win his 58th cap if selected. The 31-year-old striker has scored 15 times in 57 games for Scotland and is on a decent run of form, having scored five times already this season for Cardiff. Miller is 3/2 to score at any time and 11/2 to open the scoring.
Considering that Cyprus only broke the deadlock once in their entire Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, backing one of Scotland’s in-form strikers to score first looks like a decent bet here. Staking your free £25 bet for joining bwin.com on Miller to be the first scorer would return £162.50 if successful.
If Scotland glanced briefly at Cyprus’s record over the last decade it would be easy to over-estimate them. Some eye-catching results, including a 5-2 win over Republic of Ireland, a 3-1 win over Wales, a 1-1 draw with Germany and an incredible 4-4 draw with Portugal, disguise the fact that Cyprus are still one of Europe’s worst sides and have a record to prove it.
They finished bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group with just two points and are currently ranked 120th in the FIFA world rankings – their lowest ever position. Even with a depleted squad, it would be considered a bit of an embarrassment if Scotland failed to pick up anything other than a win.
A Scotland win is priced at 6/5 with bwin – odds that could prove too tempting for a lot of punters to turn down. A Cyprus victory is priced at 23/10, while the draw is 11/5.
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