McLeish turns to fresh faces for Scotland’s friendly against Costa Rica

Alex McLeish opens his second spell as manager of the Scotland national team at Hampden Park against Costa Rica today – a side readying itself for another World Cup appearance.

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the Tartan Army are welcoming this fresh start ahead of the friendly match.

If McLeish plans on heading towards Euro 2020, which no doubt he will be, then he has a massive rebuilding job ahead of him. And that process starts against a team that are readying themselves for another expedition in Russia this summer.

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In his 27-man squad, McLeish has named numerous new faces and nine uncapped players for both Friday’s match and the game against Hungary.

Jon McLaughlin, Scott McKenna, Barry Douglas, Scott McTominay and Oli McBurnie are being called upon for the first time. Kevin McDonald, Jamie Murphy and Jordan Archer are also waiting on their first caps having made previous squads.

Aberdeen’s McKenna and Barnsley’s McBurnie have stepped up to the national team from the Under-21s after having performed well for their respective clubs.

Goalkeeper McLaughlin is the only Hearts player in the squad, as well as Wolves defender Douglas, and Manchester United’s McTominay.

Rangers loan players have also been named in the squad – Murphy and Jason Cummings – and Cardiff City’s Callum Paterson is named among the defenders. However, he has been playing better in midfield as of late.

Aberdeen’s Kenny McLean, Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Hibs’ John McGinn are included among the midfielders and Ryan Christie and Matt Phillips in the forwards.

However this means there is no room for Hibs captain Paul Hanlon, who was included in the squad for November’s friendly match against the Netherlands.

A number of players have missed out due to injury, including Craig Gordon, James Morrison, Barry Bannan, Steven Fletcher, Russell Martin, Kieran Tierney and Dylan McGeouch, with Celtic’s Jack Hendry added in their place.

Robert Snodgrass and Darren Fletcher failed to make the pool.

But Costa Rica are not going to be an easy team to beat, and they boast a number of players who will be familiar to Scotland fans.

Celtic defender Cristian Gamboa forms part of their squad, as does former Fulham playmaker Bryan Ruiz – who is now on the books at Portuguese side Sporting.

They also have a solid last line of defence with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, however Arsenal forward Joel Campbell, who is currently on loan at Real Betis, is missing out having only recently returned from injury.

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Scotland could take on a 4-2-3-1 formation tomorrow, with Paterson, McKenna, Charlie Mulgrew and Andrew Robertson in defence; McTominay, McDonald, James Forrest, McGregor and Ryan Fraser in midfield; and Cummings in front with Jordan Archer in goal.

If McLeish is going to call up as many young and uncapped players as he has, then he needs to play them and let them prove themselves on the pitch.

Of course, it’s important to keep key players who have made previously outstanding performances for Scotland and who have more than proved their position in the squad, like Mulgrew and Forrest.

McGregor has performed extremely well at Celtic, and there was outrage at Gordon Strachan for not playing him in the national team – McLeish could learn from Strachan’s mistake and include him in the line-up against Costa Rica.

McLeish as a range of talent in his 27-man squad, with the likes of McGinn and Stuart Armstrong in there as well, but it might be good to give the younger players a chance since he’s went to the effort of bringing them in.

There are a few players who are not in the squad that the Tartan Army will miss. Players like Leigh Griffiths – who used to be in the squad and played a key role – will have a notable absence. He used to be the drive that got players up the pitch and he scored some spectacular goals for the national side.

It would also been good to get Martin – who is on loan at Rangers – on to the pitch, who has already played 29 matches for Scotland and has been capped by the national team.

The game kicks off at 19:45 tonight at Hampden Park.

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