Fate animates these Celtic cousins, disappointments too. They are united by a determination to avenge recent heartbreak, to forge new ground for a sport still largely ignored in their home countries.
Something must be dividing them tonight, perhaps after two hours of drudgery, the macabre torture of penalties even. Yet even then, though one may seem to prosper, their fate may not be decreed.
For it is entirely possible that the winner will not automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup final, but instead be diverted to another torturous play-off process in the Antipodes spring.
As the sides emerge from the Hampden Park tunnel, these countries could have it all or, conversely, not so much. Anticipation unites these passionate rivals.
But what divides them? A lot, if we are to believe the carriers of saddlebags; the home team is a fairly prohibitive 2/1, Ireland 9/2 underdogs.
Yet, in our view, these odds are, well, at odds with evidence recently presented in qualifying by what are two average international teams.
Granted, Scotland arguably have a more generous class in their squad, but not so much that Ireland, despite being crippled by injury, should be intimidated. And they also have their own stars.
After all, they went to Stockholm and stunned the second-best team in the world 1-1 with a patched-up defense this campaign; Scotland’s tilt at a windmill ended in a humiliating 8-0 loss to Spain.
“We have a Cup final tonight and we have played Cup finals before in this campaign, against Finland twice, against Sweden,” Pauw said.
His point is that his team learned to get results when they needed them.
Now they have to do it on a night when it really matters.
This is perhaps what ends up dividing the camps.
Because the Scots have embraced fate before, living the experience of qualifying for both the 2017 World Cup and Euro 2019, although last summer’s edition proved beyond them.
Ireland has yet to look fortune in the eye without batting an eyelid.
“We can’t replicate what’s going to happen tomorrow night, but it will be similar to those pressure situations,” admits captain Katie McCabe; his manager made the point more forcefully.
“They have the experience of being there and going through the play-offs,” she said. “And that’s the main difference between them and us.”
We saw it in Hampden last week against the presumed favorites, Austria, quarter-finalists of a summer Euro from which the Scots were absent.
After Abi Harrison’s goal three minutes into extra time, Pedro Martinez Losa’s side showed some league veteran trickery as they brought the competition to a close for the next half hour.
“We think we are a World Cup team so we have to behave like we are a World Cup team before we get to that,” said the Spaniard who signed McCabe for the Gunners in 2014. .
Can Ireland regain such poise and calm poise with the stakes, potentially, at their highest?
With McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan, the towering Louise Quinn and the authoritative Niamh Fahey, Ireland certainly have the force of personality at their disposal.
It promises to be a stubborn and austere affair, one suspects; Pauw’s team is created for nights like this and, deprived of striker and bench options, we can see his archetype.
“We have identity in the way we play,” McCabe says, seeing it as a nagging strength rather than a weakness.
“We have a structure and a style that we believe in and with which we give ourselves 100%. It may not be the prettiest at times, but we understand our jobs and our roles within this organization.
“And I think having that identity really gives us the confidence to go out and defend ourselves in those situations. We’ve done that in previous games but it doesn’t mean anything anymore. We have to do it again now.
Ireland have performed poorly by the standards expected of them in their recent window, but the difference in this squad now is that they can produce a result from substandard displays.
The character’s resolve is quite significant for how they changed the narrative of a series of bad luck stories.
It’s not a lack of personality that could be lacking, but a lack of personnel.
Megan Connolly is a huge loss, in her ability to cover the grass – and there’s plenty of that in the National Stadium – but also to bring order that allows McCabe and O’Sullivan to deliver their unique version of chaos.
And the diminishing attacking strength may force Ireland to sit even deeper than they normally would, and that could be quite deep indeed.
Scotland were poor themselves last Thursday and few could admit to having produced the best version of themselves.
Ireland fears it will do so now, when it needs it most.