Andy Walker
Football Expert & Columnist

Scotland face tough test from talented Belgium, says Andy Walker

Benteke: Aston Villa man is one of Belgium's many threats

Considering how well we played in June away to Croatia, it's no surprise that expectations among Scotland supporters have been lifted ahead of the clash against the classy Belgians at Hampden on Friday night.

But we should be realistic and exercise a little caution against a Belgian side that is packed with quality and tipped to get to the latter stages of the World Cup next year in Brazil.

"We can't escape the fact that this has been one more painful World Cup qualifying campaign."

Andy Walker

In truth, our 1-0 win in Croatia could not have been predicted by anyone, but we caught them on an off night and played well enough to win through a solitary Robert Snodgrass goal.

On Friday, in front of a passionate crowd and a live TV audience, another positive performance should ensure that we are heading in the right direction under Gordon Strachan, Mark McGhee and Stuart McCall, but we can't escape the fact that this has been one more painful World Cup qualifying campaign.

Confident

We've yet to win at home whereas Belgium have won six and drawn one in their seven qualifying games to date, and just as it was against Croatia in Skopje, it's hard to predict a win against a Belgium side that will travel to Glasgow looking to secure all three points.

No wonder they'll be confident.

Thibaut Courtois of Athletico Madrid and new Liverpool signing Simon Mignolet compete for the keeper's jersey with class players such as Jan Vertonghen of Spurs and the injured Vincent Kompany at the heart of a solid defence.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne strut their stuff in midfield, while Moussa Dembele, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and new £28million Manchester United signing Marouane Fellaini making all the difference at the business end of the pitch.

It's a remarkable array of talent for a nation that, like us, have been in the doldrums for too long.

Influence

On the plus side, Gordon Strachan can also turn to a number of our own players who are in good form, albeit with some performing in the lower leagues.

Alan McGregor has had plenty of action in the Barclays Premier League with Hull City and looks as though he'll thrive in that company, while Russell Martin and Grant Hanley played well as a defensive partnership against England at Wembley.

Meet Belgium's new hero... Robert Snodgrass

Robert Snodgrass is fast becoming a big influence on how Scotland play and in the absence of the now retired Kenny Miller, it'll be interesting to see who gets the nod up front from Gordon Strachan.

Watford's wing-back Ikechi Anya may well make his debut at some point after impressing with his pace and crossing ability under the guidance of Gianfranco Zola.

Whoever is chosen to start the game on Friday night and whatever happens in terms of the result, our focus now has to be on getting prepared to qualify for the European Championships in France 2016.

Now that Gordon Strachan has the players believing they can play and compete against the best players in Europe, it's a realistic aim.