Scotland continue to progress under Levein

by Martin Campbell

Another game, another win for Scotland. I must admit that has a nice and somewhat unexpected ring to it. After suffering for so long under Bertie Vogts and to a lesser extent George Burley,  Scotland now look like they have a promising team and have finally turned the corner under the stewardship of Craig Levein.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not world beaters by any means but last nights 2-1 victory over Denmark at Hampden (a team ranked 40 places above us in FIFA rankings) was further proof in the pudding that things are moving in the right direction.

Levein had elected to take on the Danes due to their similarity with Scotland’s next opponents, the Czech Republic who we face in a make or break qualifier next month.

Pre-match Levein confessed that the formation of the national side is pretty much fixed to a 4-5-1 style. This does not necessarily mean it is a defensive strategy given we have put three past Wales and Northern Ireland recently and two past world champions Spain using the system. It is simply a system that compliments the resources Scotland have at the moment; a plethora of fine midfielders but few quality forwards.

That system performed well for the majority of the game as the Scots demonstrated some slick passing moves starting from the back and progressing through midfield linchpin Charlie Adam to the Kenny Miller and the wide men of Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass, making his full debut. Levein has clearly issued an order to McGregor and his defenders to build from the back and hoofs up the park were few and far between.

The Dane’s settled slightly better in typical Scottish summer conditions with Ajax youngster Christian Eriksen looking superb. Scotland lost Scott Brown in that opening period after a collision with Simon Kjaer with Don Cowie replacing the Celtic captain.

Scotland slowly began to assert themselves like English police at a riot and opened the scoring on the 23rd minute when a low driven freekick from Charlie Adam was deflected past Thomas Sorensen by Danish defender Kvist Jorgensen. Adam claimed it but realistically it should go down as an own goal. Parity was restored eight minutes later though after a freekick from Eriksen floated over McGregor’s head and into the top corner. It was an uncharacteristic error from the keeper but he made amends five minutes later making a good save from a Krohn Dehli strike to prevent the Danes taking the lead.

Two minutes before half time a fine team move from Scotland was capped off by Snodgrass who stopped home to head home a great cross from Kenny Miller to put Scotland ahead at half time.

The Danes had the best of the second half, as both sides made several changes, with McGregor called into action a few times. Craig Mackail-Smith, English football’s top scorer last season almost scored his first Scotland goal after a Danish passback got stuck in the surface water only to be foiled by keeper Sorensen.

Another Scotland sub Barry Bannan tested Sorensen again with a long range effort, but the Danes looked more threatening and chucked everything at Scotland in an attempt to get the equaliser with Eriksen at the centre of most of their endeavours.

Their efforts were in vain though and Scotland held onto victory, their first over Denmark since 1975.

All in all, a good result and performance from Scotland which bodes well for the Czech Republic game next month. Levein seems to have found a system that finally suits the players and the performances and results are reflecting this. In addition the number of quality youngsters coming through the ranks such as Danny Wilson, David Goodwillie, Grant Hanley, Barry Bannan and James Forrest represent the country’s best crop of youngsters probably since the 1980s.

The future is bright.

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