ASSISTANT manager Mark McGhee has stressed that Scotland will not treat this Sunday’s opening European Championship qualifying clash against Germany as a game they can afford to lose.
McGhee argued that there is no sense in “giving up” the fixture in view of there being more winnable matches to come. “These next few games count and therefore they all matter,” he said, and the assistant manager was including Sunday’s clash against the world champions in this series.
“Look, anything can happen, of course, but we don’t have any fear of going there and getting gubbed,” he said. “We’re going there to have a real go at trying to get something out of this game.”
Although Scotland have risen to 28 in the Fifa rankings on the back of several good recent results under manager Gordon Strachan, Germany are positioned at the summit after winning the World Cup in such impressive style in July. They have chosen to host Scotland in what is considered to be one of the most daunting arenas in Europe – the 80,000 capacity Westfalenstadion. It is set to be packed as Germany return to competitive action for the first time since the 1-0 win over Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
On the way to winning a fourth World Cup title, Joachim Low’s side defeated Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final, a result that sent shock waves around the world and which simply underlines the challenge facing Scotland this weekend.
Strachan’s defensive options have not been helped by the news that Ipswich Town centre-half Christophe Berra is continuing to receive treatment at his club for a knock picked up in the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Derby County, where the defender scored the equaliser.
Uncapped Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds has been called in as cover. “We are still hoping he will show,” said McGhee with reference to Berra. Charlie Mulgrew, who can be used in either defence or midfield, is not currently training as he looks to shake off a knock to his knee, an ailment that saw him miss Celtic’s 1-1 draw at Dundee on Sunday.
All of which might suggest that Scotland could be tempted to write off their chances of taking something from the trip to Dortmund and focus instead on less arduous-looking Group D engagements with Georgia, Poland and Republic of Ireland later this year.
Following Sunday’s match with Germany, Scotland face a double-header next month against Georgia at home and then away in Poland, where they won a friendly encounter in March. There is another home clash against Republic of Ireland to come before a break prior to qualifiers beginning again next year.
But McGhee said: “It’s important that any positive feeling we can create in the last year is not dissipated by one result.
“I think there’s a big, big pressure on us to go there and perform the same as we’ve been performing,” he added. “We could play the best we’ve ever played in our lives and they could play the worst and we might still not get a result. These things happen.
“In terms of pressure, there’s no way we’re giving up this game. We are not sitting here saying ‘och well, it doesn’t matter what happens in Germany as we have games in October and November’. We know how difficult it is going to be, but we are serious about going there and working hard to get something from this match.”
McGhee, who played for Hamburg in the mid-Eighties, hopes the steep-sided Westfalenstadion will inspire rather than intimidate the Scotland team, who are set to welcome back skipper Darren Fletcher after a lengthy lay-off.
“We have players playing in the Champions League, the Premiership and the Championship and playing in big, big stadia all the time,” said McGhee.
The assistant manager is also eager to see the Scotland provide a fillip for the Scottish game after a trying summer.
Celtic were eliminated from the Champions League qualifying stages not once but twice, while Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Motherwell were all knocked out of Europe before the league season had even begun.
“While the domestic game is struggling a little bit, I hope people can turn to the national team and find some cheer,” he said.