Scots play ozzies before real tests begin
Craig Levein has announced a depleted squad for the friendly against Australia on Wednesday. Of the original squad listed last week Graham Dorrans, Jamie Mackie, Phil Bardsley and James Forrest have withdrawn due to injury. These are in addition to Darren Fletcher (long term health problems), Scott Brown, Kenny Miller (match fitness due to move to USA) and Steven Whittaker. All of which are first team squad regulars.
Levein has drafted in late replacements in David Goodwillie, Ross McCormack and somewhat controversially Ian Black
Black was recently bought by 3rd Division dwelling Rangers and only last week Levein intimated that as Rangers players are playing at such a low level he will not be including them in his squads (the example of Lee Wallace was cited). It seems however that he has already changed his opinion.
Of the squad of 23 only Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic,SPL) Andy Webster (Hearts, SPL) and Ian Black (Rangers, 3rd Div) currently ply their trade in Scotland with the majority either playing for EPL or Championship sides.
Robert Snodgrass sealed a move to Norwich City from Leeds United last month to join Steven Whittaker (who opted to Norwich as a free agent after Rangers administration) and Russell Martin.
These players together with: Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney (Wigan), Barry Bannan and Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Danny Fox (Southampton), James Morrison (West Brom), Charlie Adam (Liverpool), Jamie Mackie (QPR) and Steven Naismith (Everton) means that the bulk of squad will be EPL based , which it has not been seen since the halcyon days of the 80’s and early 90’s.
Much is expected of free scoring Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield) who has been attracting interest from many EPL teams. With Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps) still settling into his new life in the MLS Rhodes along with David Goodwillie (Blackburn Rovers) will be given the opportunity to shine.
Also with Alan McGregor now playing for Besiktas of Turkey it could be argued that the Scottish squad is now playing collectively at a higher level than the previously SPL based squads.
One thing that is for sure is that they must perform far better than their last friendly outing against the USA where they were thumped 5 -1. That end of season game did little to improve the already fragile confidence of the Scots who wilted in the Florida sun. At times it was embarrassing as a Scottish supporter to watch as the Landon Donovon led Americans waltzed around our defence on the way to any easy victory and a personal hat-trick.
Scotland Squad for Australia match:
- Goalkeepers: McGregor, Gilks, Marshall
- Defenders: Berra, Caldwell, Fox, Hanley, Hutton, Martin, Mulgrew, Webster
- Midfielders: Adam, Bannan, Black, Cowie, Morrison, Phillips, Snodgrass
- Forwards: Goodwillie, Maloney, Naismith, McCormack, Rhodes
The game should prove to be good preparation for Scotland’s upcoming home World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia next month, before trips to Wales and Belgium in October. If Scotland are to stand any chance of qualification for Brazil 2014 they must hit the ground running and pick up at least 8 points from their opening 4 matches.
While Group A does not contain any European powerhouses, in reality the likes of Croatia and Belgium have far better players than Scotland’s.
Croatia impressed at times in Euro 2012 and were unlucky not to progress from a group including Spain and Italy. They have a healthy mix of stars like Nika Jelavic (Everton), Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur) and Nika Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev) and must start as group favourites.
Belgium have not qualified for a World Cup since 2002 but currently have a slew of international stars in their side including Vincent Company (Manchester City and EPL player of the year), Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Ligue 1 player of the year) and Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal). However it remains to be seen if the Belgians can play as an international team as they do for their respective clubs.
Similarly Serbia have a host of players based in the strongest leagues in Europe. Although Dejan Stankovic has decided to retire Serbia can still count on Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) and rising star Miralem Sulejmani (Ajax).
Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, SCOTLAND, Macedonia, Wales
It could be argued that Serbia, Scotland , Macedonia and Wales are of much the same level and Croatia and Belgium will fight it out for 1st and 2nd places. But a good start to the campaign could see the Scots push the other teams all the way.
Whether Craig Levein is the man to lead the Scots to Brazil is open to question. His handling of the Steven Fletcher affair and the infamous 5-5-0 formation against the Czech Republic have not inspired confidence in the rank and file supporters. Although he seems to be the darling of the Scottish press and seems eager to “talk the talk” there has been little to impress on the field during his tenure.
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