Football / World Cup: Roxburgh relies on Ibrox men

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND trained yesterday at the ground where Celtic won the European Cup, before returning to the same Estoril hotel in which Jock Stein's Lisbon Lions stayed 26 years ago. Tonight, however, Andy Roxburgh will rely on Rangers' experience of Continental competition in a match neither his own team nor Portugal dare lose.

In keeping with the cat-and-mouse traditions of World Cup football, Roxburgh will not reveal his hand until this evening, but was happy to confirm that the spine of the Rangers team would be utilised as Scotland strive to come out of the Group One shadows in the Stadium of Light.

From Andy Goram in goal, through Richard Gough and Dave McPherson in central defence, to Stuart McCall in midfield and Ally McCoist up front, players who have already played more than 60 matches this season will be asked to dig further in to their reserves of resilience.

The national coach clearly hopes that the indomitable spirit which characterised the Ibrox club's performances in the Champions' League of the European Cup will override the fatigue factor.

When the nations drew 0-0 at Ibrox last year, Goram prevented Scotland's dreams from being dashed almost at the outset with two important saves from Paulo Futre. The Benfica forward called him 'the luckiest goalkeeper in the world', a reputation Goram will be happy to uphold.

While the Portuguese manager, Carlos Queiroz, has described it as 'a make-or-break match', it is not Roxburgh's style to adopt a gung-ho approach. He is likely to opt for the flexibility offered by a 3-5-2 formation, using Stewart McKimmie and John Collins as wing-backs and Kevin Gallacher partnering McCoist.

Roxburgh predicts a tight match which could be won or lost from set- pieces. 'Gough and McPherson are such a threat in that respect,' he said. 'I've also been watching Portugal for over a year, and hardly seen them score from open play.'

Portugal's strength, like Scotland's, lies, in defence, with Roxburgh summing up the fiery Fernando Couto as 'someone who would have no problems in a Glasgow pub.' Seven goals between the two countries in eight qualifying matches suggests the Goughs and Coutos will again hold the upper hand, although in Futre the hosts may possess the one player capable of conjuring something special to break the deadlock.

PORTUGAL (probable): Vitor Baia (Porto); Abel Xavier (Estrela da Amadora), Fernando Couto (Porto), Veloso (Benfica), Peixe (Sporting), Oceano (Real Sociedad), Rui Costa (Benfica), Semedo (Porto), Paulo Sousa, Futre (both Benfica), Cadete (Sporting).

SCOTLAND (probable): Goram (Rangers); McKimmie (Aberdeen), Levein (Heart of Midlothian), McPherson, Gough, McCall (all Rangers), McStay (Celtic), McClair (Manchester United), Collins (Celtic), McCoist (Rangers), Gallacher (Blackburn Rovers).

----------------------------------------------------------------- GROUP ONE ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Switzerland 6 4 2 0 17 4 10 Italy 6 4 2 0 15 5 10 Scotland 4 1 2 1 4 3 4 Portugal 4 1 2 1 3 4 4 Estonia 3 0 1 2 0 8 1 Malta 7 0 1 6 2 17 1 -----------------------------------------------------------------