YOU really have to wonder who hands out the luck in the football world, because right now he or she looks like they’re from England and certainly not Scotland.

For the luck, or lack of it, of the draw in Dublin yesterday has given us a really serious problem in qualifying for Euro 2020 through the ‘normal’ qualification route.

Group I, on the face of it, looks like a good deal for Scotland. We were in Pot 3, a reward for topping our section in the Nations League, and were always going get a top-rated side. But did we have to get drawn with Belgium, top of the official Fifa rankings?

With all due respect to our boys in blue, we just do not have anyone of the quality of Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard or the man who in my opinion is currently the best goalkeeper in the world, Thibaut Courtois. Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne will surely be back from injury and match fit by the time we face Belgium, and I think the best we can hope for from two matches is a draw at Hampden. Even that would be a bonus as I expect Belgium to coast to victory in the group.

On paper it looks as if we did well to draw Russia who are rated 10 places below Scotland in the world rankings. But Russia are not really the 48th best team in the world – though 38 is about right for Scotland. The Russians had a poor run before being rejuvenated for the World Cup on home soil – a revival which is continuing. Those frankly awful results in friendlies knocked Russia down the rankings, but their Nations League form saw them beat Turkey home and away and they ended up in Pot 2 for the draw in Dublin, and frankly that is a more realistic assessment of a country with 5.8 million registered footballers – they have more footballers than we have people.

Again, on paper, Cyprus look an easy target, given that they are joint 86th in the world alongside Luxembourg and won only three matches in the World Cup qualification campaign, two of them against Gibraltar. We have also never lost or drawn with the Cypriots, and they were relegated in the Nations League, so full points against them is a necessity.

The same goes for Kazakhstan, who did manage a victory over Andorra in the Nations League and whose main attribute is the fact that they play in a country far away from us and nobody likes the travel time to Astana. San Marino are currently the worst national side in the world, ranked 211th and bottom of the FIFA list.

We have not played them since the 2002 World Cup qualification when Scotland won both matches, scoring six in all. So no slip-ups next year, please.

Now just a wee word about England – currently ranked fifth in the world – who were yet again handed a peach of a draw against the Czech Republic, Montenegro and Bulgaria, rated numbers 42, 45 and 46 respectively. No other pot 1 team was drawn alongside such a lowly-rated pot 2 team, though I think the Czechs and Bulgarians are better than their rankings and will surely improve on their current form. I still maintain that the Euro 2020 tournament proper, with the semi-finals and final at Wembley, has been set up for England to win it. Not deliberately, of course, just good luck and great negotiation by the Football Association. And their form at the World Cup convinced me they have a decent chance of going all the way. But which nation beat them twice in Russia? That will be the bronze medallists Belgium …

What of our other neighbours? You have to feel sorry for Northern Ireland, drawn into Group C, the group of death, with Germany and the Netherlands. But the Republic of Ireland has been given a great chance to qualify thanks to the ‘host city’ rule that saw them moved out of Group C to the much easier Group D – they will fancy their chances against Denmark and Switzerland. Wales also have a toughie in a group led by World Cup finalists Croatia, with Slovakia and Hungary both difficult opponents, which is one reason why I just can’t see the five nations in these islands all making it to the finals.

My own feeling is that Scotland may need the back door method to make it to Euro 2020, via the play-offs. We have drawn Finland and will play them at home. Let’s hope we don’t need it, but we should be prepared to take any route to the finals and be on the big stage for the first time in 22 years.

As always, Scotland will put us through the emotional wringer over the coming months, but the last two performances showed that we have enough strength in depth to get a strong squad together.

Alex McLeish called for the tartan army to get behind the team against Israel, and they did that even though the attendance was not anywhere near what it could have been. The SFA’s ticket-selling arrangements on the day of the match were also not satisfactory, not by a long chalk.

I have said it before and will say it again, Scotland simply must qualify for Euro 2020 because we will never ever get the chance to be a host city for a tournament ever again – do you think any European association is ever going to vote for a British host after Brexit?

It is just so important that we get back to a major finals again. To do that we will have to beat Russia and not lose to the minnows. Please?