They must win. Ever since the final whistle sounded to signal the end of the game against Macedonia, the need for a victory has underpinned every conversation about Friday night's fixture against Wales in Cardiff.
Two points from the opening two ties, both at home, mean Scotland's chances of making it to Brazil in 2014 are hanging by a thread. The general consensus is that anything less than three points against Wales will end any surviving hope.
A win in this sort of situation is, of course, easier discussed than achieved. Irrespective of the sport, and of the standard of the opposition, going into an important match knowing anything less than a win is absolutely non-negotiable is the toughest of all. If this is how you are thinking, it's easy to forget about the processes that must be gone through to achieve the win. You risk becoming consumed by desperation and, most dangerously, the consequences of losing.
Fear of failure is the single most damaging factor that can enter an athlete's mind. If the Scotland players perform on Friday as if scared of losing, they are likely to underperform. It is in these situations that real winners come to the fore. It is easy to perform when you are the underdog. I always preferred to go into a match with low expectations on me; it made it much easier to dispel any negative thoughts about losing and therefore allowed me to concentrate fully on playing well.
It goes without saying that every player who pulls on a strip in Cardiff will be well aware of the consequences of defeat. They would be criticised by the media and the supporters. This could potentially have a paralysing effect on them or, conversely, it could inspire them to a great performance.
Real champions can perform in this cauldron of pressure. Luke Donald demonstrated it admirably on the Sunday of the Ryder Cup. With Europe 10-6 down going into the singles, and the Englishman first on the course, a point was vital to generate some momentum and kick-start the team. He displayed levels of calmness and composure that have been strangely lacking in the majors to deliver that point and begin the fight-back.
When the pressure is on, it is so easy to freeze. I've done it and so have better players than me. A common symptom is to feel as if you're wearing divers' boots. As much as you try to shake it off, it just won't go away and, for most athletes, your skills suffer if you aren't moving well.
If this occurs, a vicious circle follows: you are under-performing so you become tense, which makes you perform even more poorly and eventually blind panic sets in. If this happens, tactics become redundant and clear thinking a distant memory.
Commonly, the Scottish reaction is to "get stuck in". While the logic in such encouragement is understandable, it is often the worst possible remedy. Some nerves are vital in order to produce a good performance but if an athlete's arousal levels are too high then it will be, regardless of their sport, detrimental to their performance. An athlete must remain calm and be able to think clearly to allow them to play well. I have lost several matches as a consequence of being just too desperate to win. It sounds like a contradiction but my eagerness to win fatally hampered my performance.
It remains to be seen how the Scotland players react to the pressure they are under. It's time for them to show what they're made of because, if they want to get to Brazil, it's now or never.