Buoyed to beat boys from Brazil

Scotland's magical midfield has convinced Levein that attack is now the best form of defence

Around a table at Hampden, Craig Levein veers from hopefulness to anxiety, and it is possible to see the limitations that make internationalmanagement so dependent on resourcefulness. As he talks about how his Scotland players should consider victory over Brazil today within reach of their imagination, the optimism seems helpless in the face of some franker considerations.

There are no credible alternatives to Kenny Miller for Scotland's frontline – with Steven Fletcher having withdrawn himself from consideration in a curt text message that confirmed the broken nature of his relationship with Levein – and the choices at centre-back range from solid but limited performers like Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra to young tyros such as DannyWilson and Grant Hanley.

It is in midfield that Scotland are strong, and Levein is unabashed in likening Charlie Adam to Glenn Hoddle, or describing the Blackpool midfielder as the best of his kind – a player who can pass the ball with imagination and variety – in the Premier League. His praise of Darren Fletcher, who misses Scotland's friendly against Brazil at the Emirates, is also eloquent, and it is easy to be swayed by the enthusiasm of his mood as he explains the 4-1-4-1 formation (with Adam at the base of midfield, Miller up front and four dynamic players in between) that he is convinced can allow Scotland the means to express themselves on the international stage.

In little more than a year, the job has examined Levein's priorities, but also his judgement. It was only last October that he decided the best hope of earning a result in the Czech Republic was to play without any strikers in a 4-6-0 formation that drew disdain after a 1-0 defeat. Levein, still finding his way in the position, believed his squad to lack the wherewithal to be bold or ambitious against most opponents.

It was in containment, and some fundamental values like industry and discipline, that he saw the only hope for his side. But the blossoming of Adam; the continuing improvement of Kris Commons, James Morrison, Graeme Dorrans, Phil Bardsley and James McArthur; and the accomplishment of Alan Hutton, Scott Brown, Fletcher, Miller, Craig Gordonand Allan McGregor, caused Levein to reassess his beliefs.

Now, as he prepares to face a Brazil side that still consider virtuosity and panache to be a birthright, he believes victory to be achievable, and prepared by taking his players to La Manga, in Spain, for four days of light training and bonding. He is trying to create the kind of spirit and unity that is self-fulfilling, so that the players' attitude to each other and their obligations to the national team become powerful motivations. He seems saddened by Steven Fletcher's decision to remove himself from contention (after not featuring against the Czechs then criticising Levein in a newspaper article), but answers questions about the Wolves striker by referring to the commitment of Bardsley, who used his dad's nationality to qualify.

Scotland's history with Brazil carries the angst that has become second nature to a country forced to come to terms with the decline of its footballers and its national team. In losing 4-1 at the 1982 World Cup, it is David Narey's stinging shot from 18 yards that is still celebrated, while the most recent meeting between the two sides, which Scotland lost 2-1 at France 1998 through a Tom Boyd own goal, is considered glorious failure.

That sense of plucky defeatism only undermines the conviction Levein is seeking from his players, but this Brazil side has the means to leave his assertiveness looking hollow. David Luiz and Ramires are in form at Chelsea, while Mano Menezes, the coach, can replace the troubled Kaka with Lucas Rodrigues da Silva Moura, an 18-year-old whose buyout clause at São Paulo is £66m, the biggest in Brazil. Sandro, the Tottenham midfielder, and Neymar, the brilliant young striker who remains coveted by Roman Abramovich, will also play.

But having once been certain that a relentlessly defensive approach was his only option, Levein is now undaunted. It is in drawing his players together, and leading them to a sense of certainty, that he sees his best hope now. "Craig isn't the type of manager I'd like to cross and the other boys feel that way too," says Caldwell, the Wigan defender. "He certainly has the respect of everyone."

Scotland v Brazil is on ITV1 today, kick-off 2pm

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum