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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 10:12 GMT
Who stands in Scotland's way?
By Colin Moffat

Rafael van der Vaart in action for Holland
Rafael van der Vaart is among the new generation of Dutch masters
Scotland will begin their bid to qualify for World Cup 2010 next September and now we know which teams we are up against.

Group 9 is the only European section with five teams in it, all the others containing six.

And it's probably just as well the Tartan Army has to make one trip less, given the cost of a pint in Norway and Iceland!

The Dutch, twice beaten World Cup finalists in the 1970s, will be expected to top the standings but Scotland will not fear anyone, having pushed Italy and France all the way in Euro 2008 qualifying.

Macedonia will make for a tricky away tie but, if the Scots maintain their recent excellent form at home, they can have high hopes of claiming at least a play-off spot handed out to the eight best runners-up.

Here, BBC Sport provides an assessment of Scotland's opponents on the long road to South Africa.

HOLLAND

World ranking: 9
Manager: Marco van Basten (since July 2004)
Key man: Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid). Rafael van der Vaart, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben aint bad either...

World Cup history: Distinctly mixed. Appeared at the 1934 and 1938 finals but were then not back until 1974. Reached the final that year but lost to hosts West Germany. They again reached the final in 1978, but once more the hosts - this time Argentina - defeated them. Did not qualify in 1982, 1986 or 2002, but reached the semi-finals in1998 and are always among the fancied teams when they reach the finals.

Recent form: Finished second in Euro 2008 qualifying Group G behind Romania, with eight wins from 12 games - only netting 15 goals. Lost out away in Romania and in final match against Belarus after qualification had been guaranteed. Could only muster two 1-0 wins against Luxembourg and single goal victories over Albania.

Record against Scotland: Six wins each and four draws.

NORWAY

World ranking: 28
Manager: Age Hareide (since December 2003)
Key man: John Carew (Aston Villa). John Arne Riise and Morten Gamst Pederson are also stars in the English top flight.

World Cup history: Norway have featured three times, in the 1938, 1994 and 1998 tournaments. They lost their first-round match in extra-time to eventual winners Italy on their debut, and in 1994 they were unlucky to go out in the group stages when each team finished on four points after a win, draw and defeat apiece. Norway and Brazil advanced from Scotland's group at the 1998 finals - Norway and Scotland drew 1-1. Italy knocked the Norwegians out, winning 1-0 in the last 16.

Recent form: Missed out on Euro 2008, finishing behind runaway section winners Greece and pipped by a point by Turkey after a home defeat to the Turks this month. They also slipped up at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Scored 27 goals - two more than both Greece and Turkey.

Record against Scotland: Norway have won twice, drawn five and lost eight.

FYR MACEDONIA

World ranking: 59
Manager: Srecko Katanec (since February 2006)
Key man: Goran Pandev (Lazio).

Goran Pandev in action for Lazio
Serie A-based striker Pandev is Macedonia's danger man

World Cup history: The Macedonians joined Fifa in 1994 as a new nation, after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. They finished fourth in their qualifying campaigns for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, and fifth in qualifying for 2006 when they managed two draws with Holland.

Recent form: Finished fifth in England's qualifying group for Euro 2008 but held Steve McClaren's side to a 0-0 at Old Trafford. Also managed a 2-0 home win against Croatia this month. England and Israel (twice) edged single goal victories against Katanec's well-organised side.

Record against Scotland: Never played.

ICELAND

World ranking: 89
Manager: Olafur Johannesson (since October 2007)
Key man: Eidur Gudjohnsen (Barcelona). Youngsters Eggert Jonsson (Hearts) and Theodor Bjarnason (Celtic) will be known to Scotland fans.

World Cup history: Iceland have never qualified for the World Cup finals. They finished with just four points in their 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign, with their only points coming from matches against Malta.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

Recent form: Only managed two wins in Euro 2008 qualifying - both against Northern Ireland. Reached an all-time low with a 3-0 defeat away to Liechtenstein in October and were also held at home by the tiny Alpine tax haven.

Record against Scotland: Lost all four matches.

SEE ALSO
Dutch happy with World Cup draw
26 Nov 07 |  Internationals
Scots to face Dutch in World Cup
25 Nov 07 |  Internationals


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