Football: Brown backed by Michels

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The Independent Online
Craig Brown received support from a prestigious source yesterday as he argued, in the face of considerable media and public scepticism, that Scotland's 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands was not without its positive aspects.

Rinus Michels, who has prepared sides for European and World Cup finals, was at Hampden Park as technical adviser to the Dutch FA. While others in the visitors' camp maintained that a 'British' 4-4-2 system would have given them more problems, the grey eminence of Amsterdam decreed the new Scotland manager was moving in the right direction with his sweeper and wing-backs.

'Brown is trying to make Scotland more like a European side, and if you want to compete at international level that is the only way,' Michels said. 'It may take 10 years, but there's no other way to go.

'Scotland surprised me by playing a different game than I've encountered before. Normally they hit long passes, but they were trying to build from the back. It could take time for the Scots to play like us, but they do have the capacity.' Michels nominated Gary McAllister as a player with the requisite quality though he sensed Scottish fans might not accept a more patient approach. Nor could change be affected in isolation; asking players to abandon club custom for a few games a year would not work.

Meanwhile, Brown responded to criticism of his tactics by suggesting that the Netherlands' tendency to play one up front and another striker coming from deep positions 'murders a flat back four - they just go through you, like they did against England'.

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