Buoyed to beat boys from Brazil - International - Football - The Independent

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There are no credible alternatives to Kenny Miller for Scotland's frontline – with Steven Fletcher having withdrawn himself from consideration in a curt text message that confirmed the broken nature of his relationship with Levein – and the choices at centre-back range from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

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week