Strachan thrilled as Scotland end World Cup group on a high

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has praised his players after they recorded a 2-0 win over Croatia in their final World Cup qualification group match, BBC Sport has reported.

Strachan’s side went into the match at Hampden Park unable to qualify but seeking a victory to boost morale after a disappointing qualification campaign that saw a change of manager earlier in 2013. Strachan was appointed to replace Craig Levein with Scotland on two point from their first four games in Group A – and they ended the group with 11 points from 10 games, sitting fourth in the table.

The victory over Croatia – Scotland’s second triumph against Igor Stimac’s team after a 1-0 away win in June – came through goals from Norwich City winger Robert Snodgrass and Everton forward Steven Naismith, with Snodgrass also scoring the decisive goal when the teams met in Zagreb.

Strachan admitted after the final whistle that while he hoped Scotland would sign off with a home win, he never envisaged such a headstrong showing. “Last night when I went to sleep, I envisaged some sort of victory, but that was beyond a dream when you play as confidently,” the former Celtic manager said. “That’s probably our best performance.

Croatia had already missed out on automatic qualification – finishing behind Belgium, who ended up nine points clear in first place – and they could not be caught by Serbia either, but Strachan believes Scotland were dealt a difficult hand and, in the end, coped manfully.

I was looking at some groups and there were some far easier than this one, Strachan said. “Croatia, when we beat them, were third in the world yet Belgium beat them. That’s what we were dealing with here. Some groups don’t have anyone in the top 15,” he added.

Scotland have not reached the finals of a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup, when Craig Brown’s management saw the Tartan Army travel to France. They were drawn in a group containing the World Cup holders Brazil, and lost to the 2014 hosts in the competition’s opening game.

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