Gordon Strachan's task to rescue Scotland's World Cup hopes

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Gordon Strachan is staying on as Scotland head coach. Here is a selection of his best bits

It is a reflection of the dismay Scotland have provoked during this World Cup qualifying campaign that the past two fixtures - both 3-0 defeats - prompted scrutiny of Gordon Strachan's position, including from the head coach himself.

When his side lost so meekly in Slovakia last month, the sense was that Strachan would recognise that the relationship between him and his players had run its course.

Scotland performed with more gusto against England last week and it is clear that the players who are selected in the squads are still committed to the manager.

But, by his own admission, they are all delivering 100% in every training session and game - yet the results have still been poor. How then could Strachan turn the team's fortunes around?

It was that realisation that led to the view that he would surely stand down or be dismissed, an outcome that sections of the support would have welcomed.

Sacking him would have cost the Scottish FA in compensation, when the qualifying campaign is already approaching a lost cause, but its board did not take that decision.

Instead, Strachan has to turn around the team's form when they next play in March - and also public opinion. The head coach is now under more pressure than ever.

He insists he can still steer Scotland to a World Cup qualifying play-off spot.

To do that, his side need to finish second in Group F, with a better points tally (with games against the bottom side discounted) than the runners-up in at least one other group, since only eight of the nine second-placed teams will contest the play-offs.

Group E is bottom in the runners-up rankings as it stands, but even reaching second place requires a drastic turnaround in Scotland's fortunes.

They have won only one of their opening four games, against Malta, and drawn their home tie against Lithuania. Trips to Slovakia and England delivered two 3-0 losses.

Slovakia's Adam Nemec (left) celebrates scoring against Scotland
Strachan's position was in doubt after Scotland lost 3-0 in Slovakia

The simplest route to second place lies in making the assumption that England win all of their remaining qualifying games, which would repeat their 100% record in the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

If Scotland win all of their five remaining games, they will finish on 19 points.

If Slovenia lose to England and both games against Scotland, their best points tally would be 17. Assuming the same for Slovakia, their best points tally would be 18.

There are other permutations. Slovenia travel to Slovakia in September and if that game is drawn then Scotland could finish second with 17 points, which would require four wins and one draw.

In those circumstances, Scotland could potentially make the play-offs by beating Malta, Slovenia and Slovakia at Hampden, winning in Lithuania away and getting a point in Slovenia.

Whatever happens, Scotland need to address their own decline first.

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