Scotland: What next for national side in play-off race?

Scotland fans
Scotland fans are dreaming of a World Cup place but there's some way to go yet...

Scotland remain in contention for a first appearance at a World Cup finals since 1998 after beating Slovakia on Thursday.

But what needs to happen for Gordon Strachan's side to reach Russia 2018?

In short, they must finish second in Group F behind winners England and be one of the eight best runners-up from nine European groups.

Those eight nations progress to a two-legged play-off in November, with the draw seeded.

Since Scotland sit second in the section, victory in Slovenia on Sunday guarantees they stay there. Three points would also secure a play-off after Saturday's results elsewhere.

Slovakia are two points behind and at home to Malta, who will finish bottom of the group and have only one point so far.

A draw for Scotland would see Strachan's men miss out on goal difference in the event of a home win for the Slovaks.

Slovenia can only move up to second from fourth place with a win if Slovakia somehow slip up.

Once the runners-up are established, results against bottom-placed sides will not be counted to determine the teams reaching the play-off. In Group F, scores against Malta, including Scotland's two wins, will not count.

Scotland will move on to 20 points if they win in Slovenia but that would be revised down to 14 in the play-off shake-up.

World Cup qualifying Group F
How things stand in Group F with one match to go

The Scots are currently ranked ninth of the nine teams following Saturday's results in Group H with Bosnia and Herzegovina losing to section winners Belgium and Greece moving up to second after defeating Cyprus.

However, neither Greece nor Bosnia and Herzegovina can reach the magic 14 points in the play-off race. Greece's highest tally would be 13 and Bosnia and Herzegovina's 11.

Belgium, Spain, Germany, and England have all booked their places in Russia, while Iceland, Poland and Serbia are well placed to win their groups in the final round of fixtures.

Only Italy and Northern Ireland have secured runners-up spots, while Switzerland and Portugal are vying for automatic qualification, with the team finishing second definitely making the play-offs.

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