Burley targets win in Norway

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The Independent Football

George Burley insists failure to beat Norway in their next World Cup qualifying match will not spell the end of Scotland's hopes of reaching the finals.

Burley faces arguably his most important match in charge next Wednesday when his side travel to Oslo. Scotland lie in second place behind runaway Group Nine winners the Netherlands, but have taken just seven points from five games.

With only eight of the nine runners-up reaching the play-offs, Burley's men may need to double their tally in their final three matches to avoid elimination. The national team manager knows that would mean having to beat the Netherlands next month if Scotland do not return from Norway with three points.

But he said yesterday: "We've got three games left and we've got to win two. I don't care which two we win, but we're going to Norway for a win. If everything goes well, we can do it. We've got no fears and won't be there to sit back and try to get a draw or catch them on the break. We'll be nice and positive and, hopefully, give them problems."

Burley is confident six or seven points from nine will prove enough. "If we win two out of three, I feel that we'll finish second and then we've got to look at the groups," he said. "Having only five teams in the group will help us with getting that eighth position to get into the play-offs, so it's all there for us. "I've got a good group of players, I've got experience and youth and we showed against Iceland that we're forming a new squad of players that are pushing on and, hopefully, taking the country to a major championship."

A major championship finals has now eluded Scotland for 11 years but Burley, who named his 23-man squad for the Norway game on Tuesday, does not believe there is any more pressure than usual on his side.

"There's always pressure on the national team," said Burley, who masterminded April's 2-1 win over Iceland which put Scotland in second spot. "We've got three games left to try to get into the play-offs and that would be a huge bonus for the whole country, so there is a lot of pressure. There is a lot of expectation on us, but we're certainly focused."

Burley's biggest challenge this week will be getting up to full fitness players who are still waiting for the Scottish Premier League season to begin. "Every squad I've had as national coach, we've had seven or eight withdrawals before," he said. "We've eliminated that. Of course they need games, but you can't change that. What I've seen of the squad, there are a lot of players looking bright and sharp. In pre-season tournaments, Rangers did very well down south, Celtic did very well, so it's a case of producing that."