Beware spirited Scotland, Smith tells heavyweights

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The Independent Football

It would be an exaggeration to say that France and Italy are now quaking in their boots at the prospect of Scotland waltzing away with their Euro 2008 qualifying section. Nor, in the wake of Scotland's hard-earned 2-1 win in Lithuania on Wednesday night, does Walter Smith believe that his resurgent side should expect any points at all, by right, from Group B's titans.

But Scotland have done enough with two wins from two games to raise eyebrows in Paris, with the newspaper L'Equipe running a headline yesterday of"Attention a l'Ecosse" over its story from Kaunas. This came just day after France's Thierry Henry warned that Scotland's rising stars, including his Premiership rivals Darren Fletcher and James McFadden, can trouble Les Bleus. And Italy are already five points off Scotland's pace.

The burgeoning confidence of the Tartan Army and their side lies not just in plaudits but hard stats. Scotland have now gone unbeaten in seven away games dating back to March 2005. The win on Wednesday, earned with goals from West Ham's Christian Dailly and Celtic's Kenny Miller, followed a 0-0 against Japan and a 5-1 against Bulgaria to lift the Kirin Cup earlier this year. The Scots also won their last two away World Cup qualifiers last year - in Slovenia and Norway - and before that earned draws in Austria (in a friendly) and Belarus. Their last away defeat was by Italy, who could later manage only a draw 1-1 in Glasgow en route to a World Cup they won.

"We are not claiming we will beat France or Italy," Smith said as his team flew back from Lithuania. "But what I hope is that when they come to Scotland they know they will have to perform exceptionally well to win the game.

"We might not have the overall quality of some of the teams in our group but we have a spirit and self-belief about ourselves now ... We will go into the games next month in good spirit, but we know we will be playing against teams who are way above us in the world rankings."

A tough double-header now looms, with France visiting Hampden Park on 7 October before Scotland travel to face the World Cup quarter-finalists Ukraine four days later. Miller will miss the France match because of a booking on Wednesday. "I can worry about that nearer the time," Smith said.

For a day or two more, he will be satisfied with the steady progress Scotland are making.

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